Marine killed in blast remembered in Ill. hometown

The southwestern Illinois community of Highland is mourning the death of a native who was among seven Marines killed during a training exercise in Nevada.

Aaron Ripperda's aunt tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ( ) the 26-year-old died Monday night during a mortar blast at a weapons depot.

Beverly Lesicko says her nephew was scheduled to come home in May and aspired to become a professional chef. She says he joined the Marines to explore the world.

Ripperda was a 2005 graduate of Highland High School, near St. Louis. Assistant principal Karen Gauen says he played football at a time she was teaching English.

She recalls Ripperda as a hard-working, respectful "can-do kid" who "definitely had the discipline for the military."

The Associated Press could not immediately reach Lesicko Wednesday.

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