PIKEVILLE, Ky. (AP) - An eastern Kentucky Marine on break from fighting in Iraq was found dead in his sleep, leaving family members puzzled as they mourned.
Lance Cpl. Jason Scott Daniel, 21, a machine gunner with the U.S. Marine Corps, was pronounced dead Saturday at a friend's Staffordsville residence, about 40 miles north of Pikeville.
Daniel and the childhood friend, a fellow Marine whose name was withheld by authorities, met for drinks at a hotel lounge the night before, Daniel's grandmother Phyllis Blanton said on Thursday. The two got a ride from the friend's father back to the residence, where Daniel fell asleep on the couch. He never woke up.
"To go through seven months and two weeks on the front line, and come home and die is unbelievable," Blanton said.
Daniel served in Ramadi, Iraq, as a member of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Camp Lejeune, N.C. He was on leave for two weeks and scheduled to report back to duty on Jan. 2.
Johnson County Coroner J.R. Frisby said a cause of death couldn't be determined from the autopsy and that he was awaiting a toxicology report, which could take up to five weeks.
"As far as an investigation, there's nothing to investigate," he said. "The boy came home, went to bed and didn't wake up."
Blanton said her grandson, an avid fisherman and hunter, was seeking counseling for post traumatic stress disorder, but was otherwise healthy.
Serving in a combat zone took a toll on Daniel, she said, adding that he had difficulty sleeping and staying composed around loud noises while on break.
"I'll tell you one thing that's very sad. The first time he had to kill someone, he called his mother," Blanton said. "It bothered him so much. That just broke our hearts."
Daniel enlisted with the Marines in March 2005 when he couldn't find a job, Blanton said.
Blanton said the family tried to persuade her grandson, an only child, to stay away from combat-related positions, especially after the recent death of his stepfather.
"I tried to talk him out of it, but Jason wanted to be a machine gunner on the front line," she said.
Funeral services for Daniel were held Wednesday at the Paintsville Funeral Home Chapel. He was buried with military honors at the Patty Flat Cemetery at Fuget.
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