Honoring the fallen Marines of VMGR-452
By Stewart Air National Guard Base, N.Y., 10th Marine Regiment
The sound of taps echoed throughout Hangar 100 of Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, NY, on the afternoon of Aug. 27, 2017, as Marines, family, airmen and local government leaders joined to honor nine Marines of Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 452, Marine Aircraft Group 49, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Forces Reserve.
The memorial was held to pay tribute to the lives of the following nine Marines who lost their lives in a KC-130T accident on July 10, 2017 that killed 15 Marines and one sailor:
- Maj. Caine M. Goyette, KC-130 Aircraft Commander.
- Capt. Sean E. Elliot, KC-130 Aircraft Commander.
- Gunnery Sgt. Mark A. Hopkins, Tactical Systems Operator/Mission Specialist.
- Gunnery Sgt. Brendan Johnson, Fixed Wing Aircraft Crew Master KC-130.
- Staff Sgt. Joshua M. Snowden, Fixed Wing Aircraft Crew Master KC-130.
- Sgt. Julian M. Kevianne, Fixed Wing Aircraft Crew Master KC-130.
- Sgt. Own, J. Lennon, Fixed Wing Aircraft Crew Master KC-130.
- Cpl. Daniel I. Baldassare, Fixed Wing Aircraft Crew Master KC-130.
- Cpl. Collin J. Schaaff, Aircraft Ordnance Technician.
Family and friends gathered into Hangar 100 at 1 p.m. for the ceremony. Following the National Anthem and invocation, the first eulogist, Maj. Greg Parker, executive officer of VMGR-452, spoke about his friend and colleague, Maj. Goyette. A friend and fellow squadron member of each Marine provided remarks and recalled fond memories about good times and lessons learned in their company.
“The purpose of this memorial was to get the families of the Marines here so we could celebrate the Marines' lives,” said Lt. Col. Joshua Izenour, commanding officer of VMGR-452. “We wanted to talk about their lives, their accomplishments, what they meant to the Marines here, and to see what the lives of those Marines meant to our Marines. It's not easy to lose some of your best friends, your squadron mates, especially nine at one time. But, I'm so proud of every single Marine in this unit because they have come together. They've been made stronger and have formed tighter bonds. I think we have a really good foundation to go forth and do what we do, which is to fly planes.”
The New York City Fire Department Emerald Society Pipes and Drums and Marine Corps Band New Orleans performed music during the ceremony.
“It's truly an honor and it's very special for us to be here,” said Lance Cpl. Alexandra Whorley, a flute instrumentalist with Marine Corps Band New Orleans. “This is what we signed up for. As fellow members of the service, this is it, this is why we're here. It's very meaningful to every single on of us.”
Following the eulogies, Sergeant Maj. Randall Anderson, sergeant major of VMGR-452, performed the final roll call, a military ritual which pays tribute to fallen members of a unit, signifying the very last time their name will be called in the Marine Corps.
A 21-gun salute, playing of “Taps” and the “Marines' Hymn” signaled the closing of the memorial.
After the ceremony, the gathering of over 400 people payed tribute to each Marine by going outside for a flyover, performed by four Marine Corps KC-130Js let by Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 234, Marine Aircraft Group 41, 4th MAW, MARFORRES.
“In all the speeches, the Marines were able to say their goodbye's,” said Sergeant Maj. Larry Liechty, sergeant major of Marine Aircraft Group 49, 4th MAW, MARFORRES. “They celebrated the Marines' lives by saying some of the funny jokes they said; the families were able to shed tears, but also smile at the same time. When we ended the event, the last thing that was played was the “Marines' Hymn”. Because, just as those nine Marines would want and needed to know, the Marine Corps is still going to carry on while we remember them and stand tall, protecting things here, while they protect heaven's gates.”