Sunday, September 23, 2007

Luigi Marciante Jr. dies 'of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle'

Forty-three days ago, Pfc. Luigi Marciante Jr. stood in his Jackson home and basked in the glory of his newborn son, Lorenzo.

A newlywed four months into his first Iraq tour, Marciante had been given an 18-day leave so he could return home for the birth. The Elizabeth native soaked in every minute with his new son.

When he donned his fatigues again on Aug. 23 for his flight back to Iraq, Marciante could only talk about when he'd be able to return home for good, raise his son and fulfill his dream of becoming a police officer.

"He had nice big dreams for himself," Marciante's older sister, Enza Jacobowitz, also of Jackson, said yesterday. "When he was able to come home to see his son be born it was just wonderful."

Marciante was killed Thursday in Muqdadiyah, about 50 miles northeast of Baghdad, when an improvised explosive device exploded near his vehicle, the U.S. Department of Defense said. He is the 85th service member with ties to New Jersey to die in Iraq since the United States launched its invasion in March 2003.

Marciante, a 1999 graduate of Elizabeth High School, had been assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Fort Lewis, Wash.

The youngest of four children, Marciante was born in Elizabeth where his father, Luigi Marciante Sr., owned an auto supply shop on Elizabeth Avenue. He loved club music, and after graduating from Elizabeth High decided to try his hand at deejaying.

Described by his sister as a "giant teddy bear" with a larger than life personality, "DJ Luigi" was soon spinning records under the strobes at some of New Jersey's top dance spots, including Club Abyss and Deko Lounge, both in Sayreville.

But what Marciante really wanted was to be a cop. His father had been a police officer in Italy before immigrating to the U.S. and Marciante had long dreamed of following in his father's footsteps.

The Army seemed like a good place to start.

"He was 21, having a great time deejaying ... but Louie really wanted to take a different direction in life," Jacobowitz said. "I really feel that when he joined the Army it gave him a lot of purpose and a lot of direction."

While assigned to Fort Lewis, Marciante met his future wife, Stephanie, a Brick native who was an Army MP. The couple married last summer.

In April, when Stephanie was five months pregnant, Marciante was deployed to Iraq. He took his new mission in stride, but relatives said he was keenly aware of the dangers. He longed to be by his wife's side and cherished the regular letters he'd get from friends and family.

"We always said he knew he was very loved on mail day," Jaco bowitz said.

When he returned home in August for Lorenzo's birth and baptism, he talked about how his life had suddenly changed and confided to family his fear about re turning to battle.

"He did say it was scary, he did say it was dangerous, and he was afraid. ... He just had so much to lose, so much to think about with his son just being born," Jacobo witz said.

Yesterday, an American flag was taped to the door of Larry's Generators Inc. in Elizabeth, his father's auto parts shop, along with a simple white sign announc ing Marciante's death.

In Jackson, his family gathered to mourn and make arrangements for Marciante's burial. Funeral services will be held at St. Antho ny's of Padua, the community church in Elizabeth Marciante and his siblings were raised in. A date has not been set.

Jacobowitz said her parents were "beyond devastated," but proud of their youngest son's sacrifice.

"My dad is so proud of my brother that he chose to wear the uniform and follow the path he was going to take," Jacobowitz said. "He wasn't this 21-year-old club kid anymore. ... He was be coming this man who was doing something really great. ... We're really lucky we had him."

From the Star Ledger