Jul 14 2017
RIP AMERICA’S BEST: 15 US Marines and 1 Navy Sailor tragically killed in military plane crash in Mississippi
The plane was carrying seven members of the Marines’ elite special operations 2nd Raider Battalion, including six Marine commandos and a Navy hospital corpsman attached to the unit stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC. They were heading to a pre-deployment training exercise in Yuma, AZ, the Marine Corps said.
WTOP The 15 Marines and a Navy sailor killed in a military plane crash earlier this week in Mississippi came from around the country.
“It is a tight-knit community, made up of some of the most highly trained, dedicated Marines I have ever known,” Marines Special Operations Command Deputy Commander Col. Stephen Grass told reporters in North Carolina Friday. “As a team, as a family, we’re going to pull together to see this through.”
Nine of them were based out of Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York, home of a Marine Aerial Refueling and Transport Squadron.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said the final set of remains was recovered Thursday from a farm field where the KC-130 crashed Monday. Remains were flown Thursday to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where military officials say they will be processed by Air Force mortuary personnel and then released to their grieving families.
Marine Corps Times U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve has identified the 15 Marines and one sailor who were killed Monday when their KC-130T crashed in the Mississippi Delta’s Leflore County. Here are their stories.
Maj. Caine Goyette was the KC-130T pilot during Monday’s crash, according to MARFORRES. He joined the Marine Corps in December 1994 and became a major in November 2012. During his time in the Corps, he deployed four times, including twice to Afghanistan. He was assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 452 at the time of the crash.
His awards include: Three Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, four Sea Service Deployment Ribbons, a Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Marine Corps Recruiting Ribbon, two Humanitarian Service Medals, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, two National Defense Service Medals, Selected Marine Corps Reserve Medal, Navy Unit Commendation, Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, Letter of Appreciation and Certificate of Commendation (Individual Award).
Marine Capt. Sean Elliott, 30, was the KC-130T co-pilot during Monday’s crash, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. As a young boy, Elliott cherished a model of a C-130 transport aircraft and dreamed of flying planes when he grew up. He was selected for Marine Corps Officers Candidate School in 2008 eventually earned his callsign “Puffin” because he refused to hunt the birds one time when he was in Iceland. “Sean got all upset. Red-faced,” his father, John, told the newspaper. “So the Marines didn’t know whether to name him ‘Steamer’ or ‘Puffin’ because he got so steamed up about saving puffins. Well, ‘Puffin’ stuck.”
Sgt. Joseph Murray, 26, was a special operations Marine based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, who served two combat tours in Afghanistan, according to WJXT/WCWJ in Jacksonville. He lived with his wife, Gayle, and four young children, including twins who turned one this month. “Everyone thinks their family members are special,” his father, Terry, told the TV station. “That’s natural. We really think Joseph was very special. He was a wonderful young man of God. I said, ‘Joseph, why do you want to be a grunt?’ He said, ‘Because that’s the hardest thing there is to do.’ When Joseph decided to do something, he went all in. He didn’t look for the easy way; he looked for the right way.”
Staff Sgt. William Joseph Kundrat, 33, came from a military family, the Frederick News-Post reported. His father spent 30 years in the Marine Corps and his grandfather served in the Coast Guard during World War II. Kundrat served in Iraq before becoming a Raider, his mother told the newspaper. “Every breath of air you take, all the things you’re able to do, you can do those things because of people like my son,” Lynda Kundrat said. “I’ll never forget that.”
Sgt. Dietrich Schmieman, a Raider and native of Richland, Washington, joined the Marines out of a desire to serve, his former youth pastor the Rev. Corey Smith told the Spokesman-Review. “We’re just shocked and deeply saddened,” Smith told the newspaper. “The world lost a good one.” Schmieman graduated Hanford High School in 2009.
Sgt. Owen Lennon, 26, was from Rockland County, New York, and graduated from Ramapo High School in 2008, according to the Journal News. His sister Kelly posted a tribute to her brother on Facebook: “You may have been the youngest, but we always looked up to you. Our hero, Owen Lennon. Sending love to the other USMC families that lost loved ones last night.”
Navy Corpsman 2nd Class Ryan Lohrey was originally from Middletown, Indiana, according to WIBC. He was part of the Shenandoah High School football team the year that it went 12-0. “Ryan served our country with honor and we are grateful for his selfless service,” U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., tweeted on Wednesday. “He will be missed and I send my condolences and prayers to his family and friends.”
Lance Cpl. Dan Baldassare, 20, wanted to be a Marine since middle school, and even wore military gloves to football practice, his friend Ryan McGowen told Pix 11. “He was a patriot and all he wanted to do was serve our country. Everyone had a lot of respect for Dan,” McGowan told Pix 11.
Sgt. Julian Kevianne, 31, joined the Marines in 2009 because he wanted to “protect and defend his country,” his brother Carlo Kevianne told the Detroit Free Press. Kevianne graduated from Michigan Technological University with a degree in mechanical engineering, according to Daily Mail. “Michigan is grieving with the nation over the terrible tragedy that claimed the lives of 16 Marines, including Detroit native Julian Kevianne,” Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said in a statement. “Let us come together as a state and a nation during this difficult time to support and honor our military who have done so much for us and their families as they mourn their losses.”
Gunnery Sgt. Brendan Johnson, 46, had planned to retire next year and possibly pursue a master’s degree, his father, Kevin, told The Associated Press. The Vermont native married his wife, Anna, shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. Johnson ultimately hoped to move to Montana, where his wife is from. “This wasn’t supposed to happen,” Kevin Johnson told the Burlington Free Press. “I’m not supposed to bury a child.”
Staff Sgt. Joshua Snowden, 31, was the flight engineer aboard the KC-130T, the Dallas Morning News reported. Snowden grew up in Dallas and joined the Marines in 2003. He died just before his 32nd birthday, which would have been July 22, his family told KXAS-TV in Texas. “He was a dedicated Marine, a steadfast friend, and an honorable man,” his family said in a statement to the TV station. “He had an exuberant presence that could fill any space. You always knew when Joshua entered a room, and you always knew when he left.”
Staff Sgt. Robert Cox was a critical skills operator with the 2nd Raider Battalion, according to MARFORRES. He joined the Marine Corps in June 2007 and became a staff sergeant in October 2016. He deployed twice to Iraq, back to back, from March 2009 to January 2010. After deploying to Afghanistan in 2011, he deployed in support of operations in Iraq and Syria in 2016. His awards include: Two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals; Combat Action Ribbon; Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal; Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal; three Sea Service Deployment Ribbons; two Afghanistan Campaign Medals; two Armed Forces Reserve Medals; Iraq Campaign Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation; Navy Unit Commendation Medal; NATO Medal-ISAF Afghanistan; and a Letter of Appreciation.
Sgt. Talon Leach, a Raider, leaves behind his wife, Sara, and his parents, Denise and Tab, who are from Fulton, Missouri, according to the AP. “Talon Leach was a great Marine and an even better human being,” a friend wrote on Facebook. “So goofy and fun and there for anyone that needed help. I remember when he first got to our unit and he immediately hit it off with everyone. You couldn’t not like him. You have left some amazing memories for us and all will be missed. Love you brother!”
Sgt. Chad Jenson was a critical skills operator with the 2nd Raider Battalion, according to MARFORRES. He joined the Marine Corps in September 2010 and became a sergeant in October 2014. He came from Los Angeles, and his awards include a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation; two Certificates of Commendation (Individual Award); three Letters of Appreciation and two Meritorious Masts.
Gunnery Sgt. Mark Hopkins, 34, was a devoted Christian who joined the Marine Corps at 18 and was referred to as “Hoppy” by his fellow Marines when he served in Okinawa from 2004 to 2006, according to a family statement. He married his wife Patricia, 32, in 2014 and they had three children: Wyatt, 2 years old; Abby, 1 year old; and Lewis, four months old. “Today is the saddest day of my life,” said his brother Robert. “My older brother, best man, and best friend Gunnery Sergeant Mark Hopkins of the U.S. Marine Corps was killed yesterday in a C-130 plane crash in Mississippi. I feel grief like I’ve never known. Mark was the most likable man I knew. He was a tremendous friend, a loving husband, a super dad. I wish I could’ve had another phone call to tell him how proud I was to be his little brother. Life will never be the same without Mark. May the Lord comfort us with the hope of the gospel that my brother so loved and cherished.”
Cpl. Collin Schaaff was an aircraft ordnance technician assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 452, according to MARFORRES. He came from Pierce, Washington, and he joined the Marine Corps in August 2013, becoming a corporal in December 2015. His awards include: Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; National Defense Service Medal; two Letters of Appreciation and a Certificate of Commendation (Individual Award). Schaaff leaves behind a 1-year-old daughter and his wife, Sarah Beth, who is expected to give birth to another daughter in November. A GoFundMe fundraising page has been established for donations.