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Isle Marine defended
"When he was around me, he was the cool big brother," 15-year-old Peter Lukac said as family and friends said farewell Wednesday to 19-year-old Kaneohe Marine Pfc. John Lukac of Las Vegas.
The Hawaii-based Marine was killed Oct. 30 in a car bomb attack near Fallujah, Iraq.
With his father, Jan, and mother, Helena, weeping in the arms of white-gloved Marines, Peter stood with a blank stare as his only brother was buried on the 229th birthday of the Marine Corps.
"We had a dream to come to the free states," Jan Lukac, 52, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "He said, 'I'm so glad to be born here.' He was willing to die for this country."
John Lukac was born April 20, 1985, in Los Angeles, two years after his parents immigrated to the United States. They had escaped to Austria from Czechoslovakia, where they had lived under communist rule during the Cold War, separated from their native Hungary.
The family moved to Las Vegas in 2001 so Helena could work at the MGM Grand hotel-casino. Jan commuted to his roofing and home refurbishing business in West Hollywood, Calif.
John Lukac was motivated to join the Marines after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
"He wanted to protect the country. He wanted to make a difference no matter what it took," said Helena, 51.
He urged his parents to sign him up at 17, fresh out of Durango High School. If they didn't, he told them, he would join when he turned 18.
Durango teachers Tia Price and Gina Toth remembered Lukac as a quiet, soft-spoken model student. He received a citation in 1999 from President Clinton for scholarly achievement while attending a California middle school. He made the national honor roll as a senior at Durango and received a certificate from President Bush for outstanding academic excellence.
Toth said she was shocked when she learned Lukac had been killed in Iraq.
"You have the feeling, 'Why that one?'" she said.
Cpl. Joshua Egolf, 20, of Blue Grass, Iowa, went through boot camp and infantry school with Lukac and is a member of their Hawaii-based unit.
"He loved getting into discussions with everybody. He was an outstanding Marine and was a good man," Egolf said. "He got me out of trouble a couple times."
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