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Rochester Marine, 18, dies of flesh-eating disease

Becket Kiernan, 18, died of a flesh-eating disease while assigned to a Marine Corps base in Twentynine Palms, Calif.Courtesy Lynda Kiernan

An 18-year-old Marine from Rochester died last week in a California hospital just eight hours after he was diagnosed with a flesh-eating disease, his mother said.

Becket Kiernan was on his first assignment when he died suddenly at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, Lynda Kiernan said.

“We were just so proud of him,” Kiernan said of her only son. “He was just a scholar warrior. He was so smart and kind.”

Marine PFC W. Becket Kiernan died Monday, Feb. 5, according to his obituary. Born in Wareham, Kiernan graduated in June from Old Rochester Regional High School. He currently lived in Falmouth, the obituary said.

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Kiernan was assigned to a Marine base in Twentynine Palms, Calif., where he was training to become a radio field operator. He completed Marine combat training in North Carolina on Dec. 1, Lynda Kiernan said.

Shortly after arriving at Twentynine Palms, Becket called his mother to tell her he “wasn’t feeling well,” Kiernan said.

Becket “called me and said he didn’t sleep at all,” she said. “His leg and his hip were hurting him.”

Kiernan said she told her son to go to another hospital. He was admitted to Desert Regional Medical Center, a civilian hospital, she said.

Becket was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, she said.

“I got a call and they said ‘We did an MRI of his leg and we need you to come out here,’” Kiernan said by telephone Saturday night.

Lynda Kiernan and her daughters, Mallory, 19, and Maegan, 24, immediately left for California.

“When I got to Chicago I called the hospital and they said ‘Ma’am you need to get here right now.’ I didn’t make it in time,” she said.

Representatives of the Marines could not be reached for comment Saturday night.

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Even as a little boy, her son was fascinated by military history, and loved to learn about the armed forces around the world, Lynda Kiernan said.

He wanted to be a Marine “since he knew what a Marine was,” she said.

He spent seven years in the Fall River Young Marines ROTC program. He steadily climbed the ranks and helped to organize charity drives such as Toys For Tots.

After graduating from Old Rochester Regional High School, Becket reached his ultimate goal of becoming a Marine.

“He truly did live by the ideas of selfless leadership, generosity, and loyalty,” his mother said. “Becket was humble and kind and extremely smart.”

Becket was voted as having the “best smile” in his senior class. He had a bellowing, contagious laugh, his sisters said.

“Everyone was just friends with him,” said Mallory, who recalled students calling out his name in hallways at school. “There wasn’t anyone he met that he didn’t get along with.”

“He had such a positive effect on everyone that he knew,”added Maegan.

A wake for Becket Kiernan is scheduled for Thursday, 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., at the Saunders-Dwyer Funeral Home in Mattapoisett, followed by a funeral Mass Friday at 9:30 a.m. at St. Anthony’s Church in Mattapoisett.

Burial, with full military honors, will follow at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne, his obituary said.

This story has been updated with information from PFC Kiernan’s obituary.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the ROTC program Becket Kiernan was involved in. It was the Fall River Young Marines ROTC program.

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Correspondent Adam Sennott contributed. Samantha J. Gross can be reached at samantha.gross@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @samanthajgross.