Marine veteran survived Iraq, killed in Saturday's limo crash

Elizabeth Howe
October 10, 2018 - 7:34 am
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The last of the 20 fatalities from Saturday's limo crash was identified as Marine veteran Michael Ukaj. The group of friends in the limo, which included four sisters, was traveling to a brewery to celebrate Amy Steenburg's 30th birthday — Saturday was also Ukaj's 34th birthday. 

Ukaj joined the Marines at 17, as soon as he finished high school. His childhood friend, Bradley Armstrong, told  Stars and Stripes that Ukaj talked often about becoming a Marine. In high school, he would write Marine Corps ranks on flash cards and have Armstrong quiz him. 

“Anything you needed, he would drop it and come rushing to help you,” Armstrong told Stars and Stripes. “He would give you the shirt off his back. I know everyone says that, but he would. He was always there for us...Moving forward in my life, there’s a void of someone I can trust.”

After returning from Iraq, Ukaj struggled with PTSD. But his mother, Mary Ashton, told New York Post that he had rebounded and was enjoying life. 

“He was just very happy and enjoyed life,” Ashton 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.”

Since Saturday, controversy and unsettling information has arisen around the incident — the limo driver didn't have the correct license, the vehicle shouldn't even have been on the road, the owner of the company may have been an FBI informant. But for the family and friends lost, no new information can possibly bring their loved ones back.

“He was just such a good boy,” Ashton told AP. “My baby is gone.”

The Armstrong family started a donation page on Facebook to raise money for Ukaj's funeral expenses.