JACKSONVILLE - A Camp Lejeune Marine who survived four roadside bomb attacks in Afghanistan was found dead in his sleep Sunday, days after a New River Marine also went to bed and never woke up.
L.Cpl. Charles Delbert New, 23, died in his sleep Oct. 28. The Ohio native's death came 19 days after Sgt. Randy Travis Klafert, 25, also passed away when he turned in for the night. Klafert served as a New River Cobra helicopter mechanic with Unit HMLA 167. New was based at Camp Lejeune, a Marine who joined because of 9/11, and left his family days before Christmas 2007.
Both men were scheduled to be honorably discharged two days before their deaths. In a phone interview Thursday, New's grandmother said her family is in a state of disbelief, numbed by the cruel coincidence.
"Charles was supposed to be home yesterday, it's unthinkable," said Connie Long from her Cincinnati-area home. "When we found out Sgt. Klepferd also died in his sleep, and was also due to be discharged in two days, my mind went full tilt. I don't believe in that kind of coincidence."
NCIS is now investigating both deaths. According to family members, an autopsy was performed on New Monday. A request for information on the investigation and autopsy findings was denied late Thursday.
The cause of death for Klafert has also not been publicly disclosed. Relatives of both men said neither Marine had any health issues. Long said she is skeptical the military could provide her with the closure needed to recover from her grandson's sudden death.
"In a perfect world, I would like to know that my Charles just went to sleep. And that God took him home," Long said. "I hope there was no kind of ploy, or any misrepresentation of how he died."
Klafert was the youngest of four, spending five years in the Marines. He graduated from Sardis High School in Boaz, Ala., in 2005, and served a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
New was also the youngest sibling in his family, serving two tours of duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. New's funeral is set for Sunday, Nov. 4 at his high school auditorium in Harrison, Ohio.