Another Washington D.C. area family is mourning the loss of a young marine killed in Afghanistan.
Lance Cpl. Niall Coti-Sears grew up in the District and in Arlington, Va. He was killed Saturday by a roadside bomb during combat operations. He was just 23 years old.
His mother, Susan Coti, was traveling in Australia when she got the news.
"The saddest thing was when I got home yesterday," says Coti by phone as she and other relatives arrived at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware where her son's remains were due to arrive at midnight Tuesday. "When I got home, there were two beautiful, beautiful bouquets of very exotic flowers and he always had exquisite, sophisticated taste too. And there were two bouquets with beautiful notes, you know: 'Just because. You're always here for me, Mom. I love you. I'll see you soon."'
"And the other one: 'I love you with all my heart.' And I don't know if he sent them because he had some kind of premonition that something might ... well, I'm sure he knew something might happen. It was very, very dangerous what he was doing."
Susan Coti is a fourth grade teacher at John Eaton Elementary School in Northwest D.C.
She says Niall was a talented musician. He attended Woodrow Wilson High School in the District, studied music composition for a year at a college in England. He came home and joined the Marines in November, 2008.
"And he could have chosen anything," Coti says. "But he wanted to be infantry. He wanted to be in Afghanistan. He wanted to be out there ... in the most dangerous situations. And he really believed in that cause."
Niall was killed two days after his birthday.
"I think he might have known something was going on," Coti explains. "He was supposed to be the radio operator. But it turns out he was the point man, which is the most dangerous position you could be in. He had to go scout before the rest of the platoon and make sure the way was clear for everyone. And that's how he was killed. He stepped on an IED."
In a Facebook posting to her son last Wednesday, Susan wrote: "HAPPY BIRTHDAY NIALL! I LOVE YOU AND WISH YOU ABUNDANT STRENGTH AND PROTECTION. COME HOME SOON!!"
"He was a very, very interesting," says Coti. "Creative, talented, a nutball in some ways. And I'm so proud to be his mother. And that I had him for 23 years."
Susan says her father, a retired Marine Colonel, had a great influence on his grandson.
Colonel Coti was among the family members at Dover to welcome Niall home.