A Marine security guard stationed in the capital of the Republic of Congo died on Dec. 19 while on duty, according to his parents.

Lance Cpl. Nicholas Maurice Dural, 20, of Lafayette, Louisiana, had been serving at the U.S. embassy in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, since April.

Dalton Dural, the Marine’s father, said Saturday he couldn’t provide more specifics about his son’s death.

In response to a Marine Corps Times query about Nicholas Dural’s death, a State Department spokesperson on Friday confirmed the death of a U.S. service member in the Republic of Congo but declined to comment further. The Marine Corps didn’t respond over the weekend to a Marine Corps Times request for comment.

For the Dural family, the loss of the young Marine is “unimaginable,” said his mother, Kimberly Dural.

“He’s one of the best people I’ve ever met in my whole life,” Dalton Dural said. “His heart was so good. And I’m not saying that because he’s my son. It’s what I saw and experienced.”

Nicholas Dural adored his two sisters, and they adored him, his parents said. At family gatherings, his cousins would flock to him, the way “little ducks follow a mama duck,” according to Kimberly Dural.

Long determined to become a Marine, Nicholas Dural was poised to ship off to boot camp right after high school. But his sisters cried so much about the prospect of his leaving for the Marines that he opted to go to college instead.

When college didn’t work out, he spent some time working on tugboats on the Mississippi River, according to his mother.

One day, Kimberly Dural found out her son was headed to boot camp because a letter arrived at her house from his job, noting he had resigned to join the Marines. He hadn’t told anyone, because he hadn’t wanted anyone to talk him out of it, she said.

Nicholas Dural was a squad leader in boot camp, and at graduation drill instructors and new Marines alike came up to his parents to praise him for his leadership, according to Kimberly Dural.

Nicholas Dural pursued the infantryman military occupational specialty because he was drawn to the pride of the job, he told reporters in April.

“I wanted to be the tip of the spear,” he said. “I wanted to be the best of the best.”

But his very first job in the Marine Corps was as a Marine embassy security guard, according to his mother.

Marine security guards serve at U.S. embassies and consulates, protecting the people and classified information housed there.

In April, after completing the nine-week embassy security guard training at Quantico, Virginia, Dural was lunching at a Virginia Chick-fil-A with Cpl. John Darby and Cpl. Bradley Feldkamp when some teens there got into a brawl.

As the three Marines tried to defuse the situation, Dural saw one of the teens whip out a knife, he told reporters in an April interview.

His instincts kicked in. He grabbed and twisted the wrist of the teenager who was holding the knife, applying so much pressure to the top of the blade that the knife snapped in two.

Then Dural went to get a haircut — and didn’t tell his barber what had just happened.

“He never did things for the accolades,” Kimberly Dural said. “He did things because he knew what was right.”

Nicholas Dural loved being in the Republic of Congo, loved seeing a new part of the world and meeting new people, his parents said.

He kept busy: He was enrolled in college online, studying psychology, according to his mother. He organized the embassy’s Marine Corps birthday ball in November.

As long as Dalton Dural lives, he said, he will remember the way his son cared about other people and set out to make them feel good about themselves.

“He would stand up for the underdog,” the father said. “He would stand up for anybody that needed help.”

In the April interview about intervening in the Chick-fil-A fight, Nicholas Dural told reporters he wanted to be an embassy guard so he could be “a calm that people see.”

“I want to be that strong person that anybody can trust,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to do that. I was like that for my sisters when I grew up with them, and I would love to do that for the rest of the world.”

Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.

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