On Monday, in his Texas hospital room, the gravely ill Cpl. Xhacob LaTorre of Waterbury received a Purple Heart for the wounds he suffered in August from a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
On Tuesday, he died of his injuries.
The Marine leaves behind his wife, Frances, and a 1½-year-old son, Javier. A 2005 graduate of Crosby High School in Waterbury, LaTorre was in the ROTC program. He would have turned 21 Saturday.
LaTorre's legs were severely injured when an improvised, explosive device detonated in the Helmand province of Afghanistan on Aug. 10. The bomb instantly killed a fellow Marine who had been on foot patrol with LaTorre, said his aunt, Carmen LaSalle.
His legs had to be amputated, LaSalle said. LaTorre had made progress, though, and was talking and eating at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio within weeks of his injury, she said.
Then infection set in, and his condition worsened, LaSalle said. When he was conscious, he screamed in pain, she said.
LaSalle, who helped her sister raise LaTorre, flew to see him for Thanksgiving. He was in bad shape, she said, and other family members flew in to say goodbye. He died at 9:50 a.m. Tuesday.
LaTorre wasn't the kind of guy who would want a drawn-out mourning period, said his mother, Nicolasa LaSalle. He couldn't stand seeing people sad, she said.
He was an open, happy and friendly person, she said. In school, every time there was an event that required audience participation, there was LaTorre, raising his hand, LaSalle said.
When he was 7, a restaurant owner promised him a job if he could keep a table of 10 laughing for an hour, she said. He did. He was too young to be hired, but he got a fist full of cash from the patrons who gave him a dollar for every joke that made them laugh.
"You could be sad. You could be crying," his mom said, "but he would look for the way to make you laugh."
In high school, LaTorre, his brother, Daniel, and Carlos Martinez would play jokes on friends, "causing a little mayhem here and there," Martinez said. "We would sneak up and scare them."
Daniel LaTorre — also a Marine — will accompany his brother on the flight home from Texas on Sunday or Monday, said Carmen LaSalle.
Daniel, 23, only had a year left in the military, but he re-enlisted after his brother was wounded, she said. He was serving in Iraq at the time.
"I think he did it for his brother," his aunt said of Daniel's decision. "His brother was a very proud Marine."
She said she doesn't know if Xhacob, who was heavily sedated, was aware of the Purple Heart ceremony in his hospital room Monday.
"I hope he did hear," she said.
• Staff writer Matthew Kauffman and researcher Tina Bachetti contributed to this story.Copyright © 2015, CT Now