HIGHLAND, Ill. (KSDK) - While Aaron Ripperda loved being a Marine, he was scheduled to get out of the service and move home to Madison County in just nine weeks. But instead of celebrating this next chapter in his life, the 26-year-old's family is mourning his death.
Aaron graduated from Highland High School in 2005. He went to L'ecole Culinaire immediately after to pursue a culinary career, but changed his mind and joined the Marines.
He completed a tour in Haiti after the earthquake and then another one in Afghanistan.
His parents were relieved that he was now in the U.S. - likely safer - stationed at Camp Lejune in North Carolina. It's the reason his father used the word "shocked" over and over to describe Monday night's deadly explosion at the Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada. That's where his son and six other Marines were killed during a training exercise - mortar blast, which is still under investigation.
"No matter if it would've been nine weeks or three years, it just hurts," explained Aaron's father, Kent Ripperda. "He was so close to getting out, but he was a good Marine. I was proud of him. He enjoyed the Marines. He just felt like he didn't want to reenlist. He wanted to move on with his life, but I'm proud of him."
Aaron had a sailboat back in North Carolina. His dad said he just sold it so he could buy a bigger one when he moved back home to go to business school.
Funeral arrangements are still pending.