Fallen Marine Recruit Remembered for Bright Mind, Big Heart

A staff sergeant processes Marine recruits as they arrive through the early morning hours at the United States Marine Corps Recruit Depot on June 22, 2004 in Parris Island, South Carolina. (Getty Images)
A staff sergeant processes Marine recruits as they arrive through the early morning hours at the United States Marine Corps Recruit Depot on June 22, 2004 in Parris Island, South Carolina. (Getty Images)

Raheel Siddiqui showed up for lunch at his old high school in a collared shirt and leather jacket.

That didn't surprise Jennifer Moitozo. She remembered Siddiqui, a 2014 graduate of Taylor, Michigan's Harry S. Truman High School, as a stylish dresser. Moitozo, a guidance counselor at the school, was happy to see her former student — and anxious to hear about his upcoming adventure.

It was early March, and Siddiqui was just a few days from shipping off to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina. He'd come to say his final goodbyes to Moitozo and her fellow counselors. They lunched in an office tucked away in the school.

"He was so excited," Moitozo said Monday. "He talked about how prepared he thought he was."

Siddiqui, 20, died Friday on Parris Island. The circumstances of his death have not been revealed. As the Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigates the matter, staff members and friends from his high school remember a prankster with a bright mind and kind heart.

As Siddiqui and the counselors lunched, he told them about his plans for his military career. He wanted to work on airplanes, Moitozo said, and he talked about having to live in warmer places — Hawaii, California, Florida — to do so.

Moitozo and her fellow counselors had been surprised to learn Siddiqui wanted to join the military. He was a "gentle soul," in Moitozo's words, and he'd been attending the University of Michigan-Dearborn on a scholarship.

"This is a kid who had so much potential," Moitozo said. "He could have done anything in the world. He was incredibly intelligent, he took AP classes here. And beyond that he was just kind."

Siddiqui was one of a select few upperclassmen in the school's leadership class. Through the class, he worked in the counseling center, assisting with office work and talking to parents and social workers who called or dropped in. He was also handy with computers.

"He was really good with computers," Truman High School principal Melissa Skopczynski said Monday. "Oftentimes, when the counselors were frustrated when something was going wrong, with the printers or something, they'd ask Raheel to come down and help them out."

But Siddiqui, one of the top-10 students in his class academically, was also a prankster.

"He would change the settings on our computers if he was able to get into our offices," Moitozo said, remembering pranks Siddiqui pulled. "He would make the font really big — harmless stuff, goofy stuff. And for us that was OK because we had that type of relationship with him. We were very close to him."

Tara Thompson, a delivery driver with the Taylor-based Jimmy John's sandwich shop, ran into Siddiqui at his workplace, Home Depot, just before her classmate left for Parris Island. She was delivering lunch to another employee when Siddiqui called her name from the customer service desk and flashed a smile. They weren't best friends in high school, but they took a minute to catch up.

"Just the way he talked about going into the Marines, he was so excited," Thompson said Monday. "Just the way he talked about the Marines made me even prouder to know him."

Thompson remembers how some of Siddiqui's classmates nicknamed him "Ricky-Ricky-Heel," and how they would call out to him in the hallways. "Ricky-Ricky-Heel!" they'd say. Siddiqui would smile.

"He had a smile that would light up a room," Skopczynski said.

"He formed really good relationships," she said, adding that a retired counselor — with whom Siddiqui was close — made sure to come see him off in early March, during his last visit to the school.

As the lunch came to an end, Siddiqui and his friends in the counseling office said their goodbyes.

They hugged.

He said he'd send them a letter in six weeks, when he was able to write.

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