PHOENIX (FOX 10/AP) -- There is a Valley connection to an incident in North Carolina that ended with the drowning of a marine based in Camp Lejeune.
Emerald Isle police say 28-year-old Lance Cpl. Justin A. Hinds of Avondale, Arizona, was pulled from the surf by friends last Saturday. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Investigators have not said if Hinds was caught in a rip current, although yellow flags were displayed on the beach on Saturday, indicating a moderate risk of strong currents.
Hinds’ death is the fourth drowning on the North Carolina coast so far this year. A Chapel Hill man was found dead April 25 in the surf near the boardwalk at Carolina Beach, and two Wake Forest High School students got caught in a rip current April 22 off Emerald Isle.
On Monday, Hinds' parents spoke out about the heartbreaking loss.
“It takes a special person to defend the United States of America," said Hinds' mother, Patricia Hinds. "I don’t take it for granted, and my son loved his country and his family. His family was his heart.”
“Even from the time he was in junior high school, he says 'Dad, I want to serve. I want to do my part. I want to leave my mark',” said Hinds' father, Curtis Hinds.
Hinds enlisted in the Army in 2011, shipping out on his birthday. After a stint with the reserves and the Arizona Department of Corrections, he re-enlisted with the Marines.
Patricia didn’t know hours before the tragedy that it would be the last time she spoke with her son.
“He called Saturday and he says, 'Mom, I’m going to the beach with some Marines, and we’re gonna hang out'," Patricia recounted. "I said, 'be safe', and he said we’ll be fine, I love you, I love dad. He talked to my husband, and he got back in the phone and we had bought him a ticket to come home in two weeks and he said I’m excited about coming home.”
While they’re now forced to say goodbye to their son, the Hinds family takes comfort in Justin’s legacy, one of love and service.
“We’re proud of you,” said Curtis.
"Take your rest," said Patricia.
The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.