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Marine Lance Cpl. Justin J. Swanson, 21, Anaheim; killed in explosion

A roadside bomb is detonated beneath the Humvee he is driving in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province, on the Pakistani border.

January 10, 2010|By Jill Leovy

On Nov. 19, Swanson's parents waited at the Los Alamitos air field. The plane was late, and the light was fading. Hargrove had been prepared by a Marine media specialist, but felt unsteady.

The plane landed. There was "the most excruciating long wait," Hargrove said. Finally, the doors opened and Swanson's casket was brought out. The procession to Westminster Memorial Park stopped traffic. Along the way, Hargrove spotted a line of preschool students standing at attention, hands over their hearts.

Rivera, 42, has decided to retire since returning from Afghanistan. "I'm done with it," he said. "After Justin. . . ." He trailed off.

Swanson's father went back to his job as a carpet salesman. Hargrove said she worries about him: Newly off parole, he has no other children and lives alone.

For his part, Leslie James Swanson said he is proud of his son, who, he said, died for his country. "But given a second chance, I think he would rather be coming home, to be quite honest."

In addition to his parents, Swanson is survived by siblings Kayla, 16, Gage, 14, and Kelli, 8.

Funds are being raised for a memorial "Challenge Day" at Buena Park High. Donations may be made to the school.

jill.leovy@latimes.com

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