A Marine Corps veteran who survived the horrors of Iraq was killed in the upstate limo crash Saturday — his birthday, according to reports on…
A Marine Corps veteran who survived the horrors of Iraq was killed in the upstate limo crash Saturday — his birthday, according to reports on Tuesday that identified him as the 20th and final victim of the smash-up.
Michael Ukaj turned 34 Saturday and was with 16 of his closest friends in the back of a party limo for another reveler’s birthday party when the luxury ride’s underqualified driver lost control and slammed into the parking lot of a popular roadside cafe, according to the Albany Times Union .
“He was just such a good boy,” Ukaj’s grieving mom, Mary Ashton, told the paper. “My baby is gone.”
She posted a touching tribute to her son along with a photo of him in his Marine Corps uniform on Facebook.
“You were such an inspiration when you wanted to join the Marine Corps!” she wrote . “Thank you for your combat service, and for being my son. I love you forever.”
Ukaj of Caroga Lake enlisted in the Marines at age 17 and served a full tour in Iraq, according to the Times Union.
In the years after his return, he grappled with severe post-traumatic stress disorder but had rebounded, Ashton said.
“He was just very happy and enjoyed life,” she said. “He did struggle like we all do with certain issues, but generally he was enjoying life. He posted pictures of him with friends, skeet shooting and having bonfires.”
Ukaj, 16 friends, the limo’s driver — who was not licensed to operate the vehicle — and two pedestrians were killed in the nightmarish collision.
The dead also included four sisters — one of whom was celebrating her own 30th birthday — and three of their husbands.