CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (AP/WAVY) — The Black Hawk helicopter that crashed in dense fog during a training mission in Florida was carrying seven special operations Marines forces based in North Carolina, along with four National Guard soldiers from Louisiana. All were killed.
Friday, military officials released the names of the Marines killed. All were from the 2nd Special Operations Battalion of the Marine Corps Special Operations Command at Camp Lejeune.
Among the victims was Master Sgt. Thomas Saunders, 33, from Williamsburg, Va.
The salvage of the helicopter could begin Friday afternoon and is expected to take several hours.
Here are some of the victims’ stories:
Born in Bonn, Germany, Master Sgt. Thomas Saunders enlisted in the Marines after graduating from high school in Virginia. Following basic training in 1999, he was assigned to Camp LeJeune.
He deployed in Kosovo and served in Operation Iraqi Freedom with a special operations task force. The Saunders Family told WAVY.com Master Sgt. Saunders was assigned to Little Creek from 2004-2007. He lived in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake during that time. The family said, “He was truly dedicated to the Marines and to his MARSOC team. We would also like to acknowledge the pain that the families of the other 6 Marines and the 4 National Guard air crew members are going through. It meant a lot to Tom to be able to work with such great men.”
On March 6, just days before the helicopter crash, Staff Sgt. Andrew Seif was awarded the Silver Star Medal.
Seif received the award for facing enemy fire to save a mortally wounded friend in Afghanistan in July 2012.
The Camp Lejeune Globe reported that Seif was from Holland, Michigan. He grew up playing soldier in his backyard and joined the Marines just weeks after graduating from high school.
By 2012, he was a critical skills operator with the 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command. Seif and his teammate, Sgt. Justin Hansen, were closing in on one of western Afghanistan’s bomb experts, according to the paper. They came under fire, and Hansen was hit. Seif moved Hansen to safer position, treated his teammate’s wounds and returned fire.
“The fact that (Seif) continued to fight through the objective to get Sgt. Hansen taken care of, putting himself in the line of fire, speaks volumes to who he is and demonstrates that he would never leave a Marine behind,” said Maj. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman.
Seif’s wife was at his side when he received the medal.
He was born in Fairbanks, Alaska.
“I think sometimes the worst situations bring out the best in people, and that day a lot of people showed their worth,” Seif told the newspaper.
Staff Sgt. Trevor P. Blaylock was born in Lake Orion, Michigan, and swam on the varsity swim team. Upon graduation, he attended Henry Ford Community College.
In 2006, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and was previously stationed at Camp Pendleton in California.
He served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in Al Anbar Province.
LIAM A. FLYNN
Born in Reading, England, Staff Sgt. Liam Flynn moved to Queens, New York in 2002.
He enlisted in the Marine Corps that year. After boot camp, he was assigned to Camp LeJeune.
He served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
STANFORD HENRY SHAW III
Capt. Stanford Henry Shaw III was from Basking Ridge, New Jersey, and attended Ridge High School, where he was student government president and captain of the varsity lacrosse team.
He attended the United States Naval Academy and upon his graduation in 2006 became a commissionedMarine officer. After graduating from the Infantry Officer Course, he was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7thMarines.
He served two tours of duty in Iraq, according to information provided by the Marines at Camp Lejeune.
Staff Sgt. Marcus Bawol from Warren, Michigan, “loved everything about the military,” said his sister, Brandy Peek.
“He couldn’t wait to join. He wanted to fight for our country and was always striving to be the best Marine he could be.”
The 27-year-old graduated in 2006 from Warren Mott High School. Bawol played baseball and football and was a member of the school’s swim team, according to district Superintendent Robert Livernois.
Bawol attended Olivet College for a year, where he was a catcher on the baseball team.
He had planned to marry his fiancée in October, Peek said.
On Thursday, Warren Mayor Jim Fouts ordered flags in the city, just north of Detroit, flown at half-staff.
Staff Sgt. Kerry Michael Kemp was the proud father of a baby just shy of her first birthday and loved horsing around with his nephews.
“He would wrestle with them. He really got into that, the wrestling and playing. He’d carry them around on his back,” said his sister-in-law, Lora Waraksa.
He was a “proud Marine, a loving husband and most wonderful father,” she said. He also loved golfing and the ocean — he often took his nephews out to hunt for sea shells.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Kemp met his wife, Jenna, at Port Washington High School in Wisconsin, where he was voted “best smile” by his senior class. He graduated in 2005.
He was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
Associated Press reporters Michael Biesecker in Raleigh, N.C.; Corey Williams in Detroit; Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee contributed to this report.
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