Less than a year after realizing his lifelong dream of becoming a Marine, Pvt. Anthony W. Romano-Caruso was found dead under mysterious circumstances in his Fort Meade barracks room on Wednesday.
Rita Romano-Caruso said two Marines arrived at her front door in Burlington, N.C., on Thursday night to tell her that her 19-year-old son had died, but they didn't know why.
"I am not sure exactly what happened," she said Friday. "It is bad to sit here in limbo, to not know what's going on. It's bad. ...
"Everybody is still in shock."
Col. Sean Gibson, public affairs officers for the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said Romano-Caruso's death is under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. No further details about his death have been released.
Rita Romano-Caruso said she and her husband had planned to visit their son over Memorial Day weekend. Instead, she is planning his funeral and waiting for the Marines to release his body.
When they spoke for the last time on May 17, Romano-Caruso said her son "was fine. He was happy. He was enjoying himself."
He had dreamed about joining the military since he was 3 years old, his mother said. Together, the family spoke to recruiters once Anthony Romano-Caruso had turned 16 or 17.
"It meant everything; he said it was the best decision he ever made," she said. "He loved it. His aspiration was to be a drill sergeant."
Anthony Romano-Caruso went to boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., immediately after his high school graduation. He finished training there on Oct. 11 and was sent to Marine combat training at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
After finishing combat school at Camp Lejeune on Jan. 24, he was assigned to Fort Meade, where he attended the Defense Information School. He was expected to finish classes at the end of June and receive his next orders, his mother said.
He had been awarded the National Defense Service Medal.
Serving in the military was a family tradition, Rita Romano-Caruso said. Her son's grandparents met while both were serving in Army in Vietnam. His father served in the Army, and his uncle served in the Marines.
Rita Romano-Caruso said she had tried to call her son every day since they spoke last week but had been unable to reach him. She said she figured he had lost his phone, as he had done before, or forgot to pay his bill. She said she wasn't worried.
"Tony was funny," she said. "He liked to make people smile. He liked to make people laugh. He was very responsible, very driven."