CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (AP) — 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.
A salvage barge arrived at the crash site around noon Friday, Air Force spokeswoman Sara Vidoni said. Hauling the shattered helicopter core from about 25 feet of water was expected to take up to eight hours, she said. Despite some rain, she said the salvage crew expected to finish some time Friday night.
Also 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, or MARSOC, at Camp Lejeune.
Here are some of their stories:
ANDREW C. SEIF
On March 6, just days before the helicopter crash, Staff Sgt. Andrew C. Seif was awarded the Silver Star Medal. Seif, 26, received the award for facing enemy fire to save a mortally wounded friend in Afghanistan in July 2012.
He was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, and lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, until middle-school when his family moved to Holland, Michigan, the Marines said.
Seif grew up playing soldier in his backyard and joined the Marines just weeks after graduating from high school, according to an article about his award published this week in the Camp Lejeune Globe, the base newspaper.
By 2012, he had spent two years as a special forces operator with the 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, which operates from the Middle East to Central Asia. 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 and treated his teammate's wounds. Seif returned fire, advanced alone across the compound and found the targeted bomb-maker.
"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.
TREVOR P. BLAYLOCK
Staff Sgt. Trevor P. Blaylock, 29, was born in Lake Orion, Michigan, and swam on the varsity swim team. He attended Henry Ford Community College for one year before joining the Marine Corps in 2006.
Initially, he was a mechanic in an armored reconnaissance battalion at Camp Pendleton in California. He served two tours in Iraq in 2007 and 2008. His decorations include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Valor.
His home near Camp Lejeune was within earshot of dull booming sounds of artillery or other heavy weapons. A woman who came to the front door declined to speak to a reporter.
THOMAS A. SAUNDERS
Born in Bonn, Germany, Master Sgt. Thomas A. Saunders, 33, enlisted in the Marines after graduating from high school in Virginia. Following basic training in 1999, he was assigned to Camp LeJeune.
He deployed to Kosovo and served with special operations teams in Iraq and Afghanistan before years before joining a Marine Corps special operations unit in 2010. He spent eight months as a liaison to Army Special Operations Command before joining his Middle East-focused regiment four years ago.
He was married to a fellow Marine based at Camp Lejeune, and the couple has one son, according to an award by the Marine Corps Association & Foundation naming Saunders its special forces operator of 2014.
LIAM A. FLYNN
Born in Reading, England, Staff Sgt. Liam Flynn, 33, moved to Queens, New York in 2002.
He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2006. After boot camp, he was assigned to Camp Lejeune.
He served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan before joining the Marine Corps' special operations force in 2011 and returning to Afghanistan in 2012.
Flynn's heroism was honored by receiving three Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals with Valor and the Bronze Star with Valor.
STANFORD H. SHAW III
Capt. Stanford Henry Shaw III, 31, was from Basking Ridge, New Jersey, and attended Ridge High School, where he was student government president and captain of the varsity lacrosse team.
Neighbors along a quiet cul-de-sac about 40 miles west of New York City said the hard-working teen they knew as Ford had always dreamed of going into the military. His family declined to speak to a reporter Friday.
"Just a fantastic guy," said next-door neighbor Gretchen Priore, who said she'd known Shaw since he was in high school.
He attended the United States Naval Academy and became a commissioned Marine officer upon graduation in 2006. He graduated from the Infantry Officer Course and was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines.
He served two tours of duty in Iraq in 2007 and 2009, according to information provided by the Marines at Camp Lejeune.
His career took him to Japan, where he became the deputy camp commander of a jungle warfare training center on Okinawa in 2011. He graduated from the Malaysian army's jungle warfare course and then joined the Marine special forces.
MARCUS S. BAWOL
Staff Sgt. Marcus S. Bawol of 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," Peek said.
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 fiancee in October, Peek said.
On Thursday, Warren Mayor Jim Fouts ordered flags in the city, just north of Detroit, flown at half-staff.
KERRY M. KEMP
Staff Sgt. Kerry Michael Kemp, 27, 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 started as an artillery mechanic, and his military merit led to three quick promotions. He completed training in special operations in 2012 and spent seven months in Afghanistan before returning in June.
Lush reported from Tampa, Florida. Associated Press reporters Michael Biesecker in Raleigh, North Carolina; Corey Williams in Detroit; and Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee contributed to this report.
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Posted on Mon, March 16, 2015
by EMERY P. DALESIO, TAMARA LUSH, Associated Press