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Mystery trip: Marine missing from California's Camp Pendleton found safe at Texas rest area

Richland, Texas — A U.S. Marine believed to have left Arizona for California's Camp Pendleton never arrived but was found days later at a Texas rest area, unharmed.

Lance Corporal Job Wallace was taken into custody Saturday night by Naval Criminal Investigative Service and other law enforcement officers at a rest area in Navarro County, according to a NCIS statement cited by The San Diego Union-Tribune.

The 20-year-old had last been seen leaving a friend's house in Surprise, Arizona, on Monday night, his mother, Stacy Wallace, said. He was due back at Camp Pendleton after a three-day leave that took him home to the suburbs west of Phoenix and a camping trip.

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U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Job Wallace in undated photo KPHO-TV

About an hour south of Dallas, Navarro County is more than 1,100 miles east of Surprise and in the opposite direction from Camp Pendleton in Southern California.

The statement from Kurt Thomas, the special agent in charge of the NCIS Marine Corps West field office, did not include details about how Wallace was found or what he was doing.

Stacy Wallace had said her son loved the Marines and was excited to get back to Camp Pendleton, having been recently promoted.

"He got into several colleges and missed scholarship opportunities just so that he could be a Marine, because he felt it was his duty to serve his country," Wallace said.

Wallace's mother had said law enforcement officials told her that her son's phone was last pinged Monday night in Arizona. But a Border Patrol camera spotted his truck the next morning traveling eastbound on Interstate 10 near Fort Hancock, Texas, southeast of El Paso.

A Surprise police spokesman had said officers took a report and turned the matter over to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Thomas' Saturday night statement thanked law enforcement partners in Texas, Arizona and on the federal level "for their aid in bringing this to a safe resolution."

Stacy Wallace told CBS Phoenix affiliate KPHO-TV the waiting was "the worst experience of your life. There's too many emotions for me to get into what it's like."

But now, she told the station, "There's lots of emotions but I'm overjoyed. I'm super happy to have my son … safe."

The family, she said, will wait for the right time to ask her son what happened. "I haven't even gotten to the questioning phase," she remarked to KPHO. "I'm still in the release of emotions (phase) and (am) overjoyed my son's home, and he's alive."

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