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Bedford Marine, 19, is killed in Fallujah

BEDFORD -- Lance Corporal Travis Desiato, known for his modesty, thought it was possible he would perish in combat while stationed in Iraq, so he sent his family a message to convey.

Yesterday, as the 19-year-old's wife, father, stepmother, and half sisters stood clasping hands on the family's snow-speckled lawn, a neighbor read aloud the Marine's humble assessment of the sacrifice he made.

''If he did not return from Iraq, he stated to tell anyone that asked that he did his job," said Sam Mendales, a family friend. ''Ladies and gentlemen, he did his job."

Desiato, who graduated from Bedford High School last year, was killed Monday while fighting in the embattled city of Fallujah. Military officials did not release further details on his death yesterday.

''Travis was a young man who was a wonderful husband, son, brother, and friend," said Mendales, who spoke on behalf of Desiato's shaken family members. ''He believed the best way to serve his family and community was to enlist in the Marines. He felt most needed in Iraq."

Desiato's death was the second time the Iraq war has taken the life of a young man from Bedford, a town of about 13,000. Yesterday, Brian Hart, the father of 20-year-old Army Private John D. Hart, who was killed Oct. 18, 2003, during a battle in Taza, Iraq, was at the Desiato home consoling the family, Mendales said.

Standing before television cameras, he added that the media attention drawn by the town's second loss would not have set well with Desiato.

''Travis was a very private person, and he would have been taken aback by all this fuss," Mendales said.

At Bedford High, the US flag flew at half staff, and the principal, Jonathan Sills, delivered the grim news to faculty, staff, and students, who he said were visibly shaken.

''Travis was very well liked and highly respected while here," Sills said. ''He always looked you in the eye. He was somebody I liked personally."

Desiato was raised by two physicians. His father, Dr. Joseph Desiato, is a pediatrician at Lawrence General Hospital. His mother, Dr. Barbara Jean Coopes, moved to Alaska after the couple's divorce, Mendales said. A phone number for Coopes could not be located yesterday, but a website for an Anchorage hospital lists her as a pediatrician.

Mendales said Desiato was the youngest of two children; his 22-year-old sister, Raleigh, lives in California.

Travis Desiato went to boot camp right out of high school. He did so well that he was offered presidential duty, Mendales said, but he turned it down to serve in Iraq. He married his high school sweetheart, Tracey, in June and soon shipped out to Iraq.

At Bedford High, Desiato played football and baseball and participated in a nursing program.

''Travis loved little kids," Sills said, recalling how Desiato, in full uniform, visited the school after enlisting in the Marines. ''It was near Halloween. He put on a wig and sat with the kids and talked about what service meant to him."

Football and baseball teammate Dan Richter, 18, now a student at Stonehill College, said Desiato's modesty was notable even in his team play.

''It was never about himself and never about bettering himself; it was always about his team," Richter said.

''I think that's the reason why he went into the military. Whenever you were down, he would pick you up. Nothing could get him down."

Globe correspondents Katie Oliveri and Julie Polovina contributed to this report.

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