Seven Camp Lejeune Marines lost their lives in a helicopter crash during training in Florida earlier this week. The men, who were highly dedicated to their country, left their families behind: sons, daughters, wives, mothers, fathers, unborn children and so many more.
ABC 11 News reported that the Marines were identified by their command on Friday. They ranged in age from 26 to 33. Their deaths are an incomprehensible loss for their families.
As word quickly spread through the close-knit community surrounding Camp Lejeune, the U.S. Veterans Corps quickly answered the call to help the grieving families.
“People know us as the black shirts,” said USVC executive director Andrew Ladner. “About 10 percent of our mission, it’s never on social media. We’re never shown on camera.”
Ironically in this case, social media is exactly what connected the Triangle veterans with coastal veterans, volunteers and the home of the seven fallen soldiers – the Marine Corps Special Operations command.
On Thursday, Nancy Greene, a Marine veteran, went on Facebook and started gathering volunteers to provide hot meals and help with housekeeping for the mourning families. She connected with Sherri Yuhas, a former military spouse to help mobilize other mothers. The actions led to the USVC in Cary and by Friday morning, the group took $1,000 to buy non-perishables, picked up toys from their annual drives and travelled to Onslow County.
“Less than 24 hours. Talk about mobilization,” said Greene. “Less than 24 hours.”
According ABC 11 News, by 2:30 p.m. Friday afternoon, the volunteers met in Sneads Ferry with car loads of supplies for seven young families.
“We have five children who will not grow up with their father and two on the way,” said Yuhas. “So this is a true gift. It’s a blessing.”
“After the funerals and all this stuff, this will be a smile on the kids’ faces,” said Greene. “It’s a tragedy, but in Sneads Ferry, in North Carolina, in this area people are willing to reach out and help.”
The seven Marines were members of the same team who constantly trained and tackled danger together. They were killed during a nighttime training exercise designed for elite troops facing high risk operations.
A private ceremony remembering the special operations Marines will be held in the coming weeks to help surviving family members, friends and fellow soldiers grieve the loss of their loved ones and comrades.
On Friday, military officials released the names of the Marines who died. All were from the 2nd Special Operations Battalion of the Marine Corps Special Operations Command at Camp Lejeune. The fallen Marines: Staff Sgt. Andrew Seif, Staff Sgt. Trevor P. Blaylock, Master Sgt. Thomas Saunders, Staff Sgt. Liam Flynn, Capt. Stanford Shaw III, Staff Sgt. Marcus Bawol, and Staff Sgt. Kerry Kemp.