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Private First Class Dalton Beals, 19, died during a basic training exercise at Parris Island in South Carolina on June 4, 2021. Beals was just two weeks away from officially becoming a Marine.
Private First Class Dalton Beals, 19, died during a basic training exercise at Parris Island in South Carolina on June 4, 2021. Beals was just two weeks away from officially becoming a Marine. (U.S. Marine Corps)

HILTON HEAD, S.C. (Tribune News Service) — My baby boy. My hero.

That’s how Stacie Beveridge Beals described her son, Dalton Beals, Tuesday in a Facebook post that included a cracked red heart emoji and accompanied a photo of a smiling, sunglasses-wearing Dalton in his high school graduation cap and gown.

Dalton Beals, who competed in football, wrestling and track in high school before signing up to serve his country, died Friday in the final hours of his training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. He was 19.

The news of his death broke the hearts of his family and friends in his hometown of Pennsville, New Jersey, a community of about 12,000 residents.

“Dalton was truly my hero and so humbled by how many lives he touched,” his mother posted on Facebook. “He was an amazing soul.”

His death Friday came during the part of training known as the Crucible, a 54-hour, physically grueling test that all recruits endure before becoming Marines.

His cause of death is under investigation, according to the Marine Corps.

An autopsy was conducted Tuesday morning at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, and a cause of death is pending, according to Beaufort County Deputy Coroner Debbie Youmans.

‘A man amongst boys’

Beals graduated in 2020 from Pennsville Memorial High School, where he wore No. 81 and played tight end on offense as well as defensive end.

“He was a big, strong physical player, but he was a good athlete also,” Pennsville football coach Mike Healy told The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette. “He did anything we asked him to do.”

Healy recalled one game in which Beals agreed to play left tackle after the tackle could not suit up.

“He cared more about the team than himself, and he was a good enough athlete where he was able to transition,” Healy said.

Beals could have played college football, Healy said, but his dream was to join the military.

John Starcevich, who works as a detective in Beals’ hometown and was his wrestling coach in high school, said he introduced him to friends who were in the Marines.

“Dalton had told me he wanted to work with me someday after his time in the military, and I honestly thought that would be the case,” Starcevich said.

Beals had what it took, according to Starcevich: He was athletic, agile and fast. He was also incredibly kind, Starcevich said, a “gentle giant” — but only off the mat.

“As an athlete, Dalton was quite literally a man amongst boys,” Starcevich said.

Flags will be flown at half staff in honor of Beals, the school announced on Facebook.

“He is going be missed by all the Pennsville Eagles fans,” Cris Visalli posted on Facebook. “I was so glad I got to support him for football and wrestling.”

His mother had noted in a June 1 Facebook post that her son would be beginning the last leg of his training, the Crucible, on Thursday, June 3.

“The final leg of my baby’s journey to becoming a Marine!!” she wrote.

The Crucible is a 48-mile journey over 54 hours with 45 pounds of gear, 36 stations and problem-solving exercises with four to six hours of sleep and limited nourishment.

Beals died Friday. His cause of death is under investigation, according to the Marine Corps.

An autopsy was conducted Tuesday morning at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, and a cause of death is pending, according to Beaufort County Deputy Coroner Debbie Youmans.

In New Jersey, his death was announced at school, although most everybody in the close-knit community already had heard the news, said Healy, the football coach. The principal had trouble “keeping it together” during the announcement.

“It was pretty devastating for a lot of people of this town,” Healy said.

Beals, who had a great sense of humor and usually a smile on his face, was a joy to be around, Healy said.

“He is a kid I would trust to do anything in the world,” Healy said, “so, yeah, it’s been tough.”

(c)2021 The Island Packet (Hilton Head, S.C.)

Visit The Island Packet (Hilton Head, S.C.) at www.islandpacket.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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