CAMP LEJEUNE, NC (Cpl Steven Fox) – Second Marine Special Operations Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, hosted a celebration-of-life ceremony aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., May 15, to remember and honor the seven Marines and four soldiers who died in a helicopter crash during a training exercise.
Honored at the ceremony were: Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 George Wayne Griffin, Jr., 37, from Delhi, La.; Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 George David Strother, 44, from Alexandria, La.; Capt. Stanford H. Shaw III, 31, from Basking Ridge, N.J.; Master Sgt. Thomas A. Saunders, 33, from Williamsburg, Va.; Staff Sgt. Marcus S. Bawol, 26, from Warren, Mich.; Army Staff Sgt. Lance J. Bergeron, 40, from Thibodaux, La.; Staff Sgt. Trevor P. Blaylock, 29, from Lake Orion, Mich.; Army Staff Sgt. Thomas Florich, 26, from Fairfax County, Va.; Staff Sgt. Liam A. Flynn, 33, from Queens, N.Y.; Staff Sgt. Kerry M. Kemp, 27, from Port Washington, Wis.; and Staff Sgt. Andrew C. Seif, 26, from Holland, Mich.
The seven MARSOC Marines and four Louisiana Army National Guard soldiers were participating in nighttime aircraft integration training designed for U.S. Special Operations Forces when their UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter crashed near Eglin, Fla., March 10.
Families and friends of the fallen and service members from around the nation gathered at the MCB Camp Lejeune Base Theater to honor the Marines and soldiers and to share memories and stories about their lives.
Among those in attendance were U.S. Secretary of the Navy Raymond E. Mabus, Jr., U.S. Special Operations Command Commander Gen. Joseph L. Votel, U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., and MARSOC Commander Maj. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman.
Osterman briefly spoke to those in attendance about the tragedy, offering condolences, but also affectionate and kind words about the 11 service members.
“It’s really a great day to talk about some incredible and fantastic men,” said Osterman. “Men who served selflessly and chose a career to protect their nation – to protect their families. We are all very fortunate to have served with, known and loved these great men.”
Friends and fellow service members of the fallen Marines took turns speaking about each Marine, citing past experiences and fond memories.
“Every Marine was a member of (Marine Special Operations Team) 8231,” said a friend and teammate of the fallen Marines. “So as we celebrate the lives of each individual, we also celebrate the legacy of Havoc 31 (MSOT 8231), and the intense brotherhood that will forever band us together.”
To conclude the ceremony, Osterman presented family members with posthumous awards recognizing the accomplishments of their loved ones.