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Faces of the Fallen: 16 Killed in Worst Marine Air Disaster Since 2005 Identified

The 15 Marines and a Navy sailor killed in a military plane crash earlier this week in Mississippi — the deadliest Marine air disaster since 2005 — came from around the country. All had different life stories with one common denominator: they were heroes. Their identities were officially released Friday as the nation mourns with their grieving families.

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Marine Corps Reserve/NBC 4 New York
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Major Caine M. Goyette was the KC-130 Aircraft Commander. He was deployed in September 2005 for Operation Enduring Freedom. He was stationed at Stewart and earned his rank in 2012 after entering the military in 1994. Awards and decorations with (# of each award): Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (3), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (2), Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (4), Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Marine Corps Recruiting Ribbon, Humanitarian Service Medal (2), Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal (2), Selected Marine Corps Reserve Medal, Navy Unit Commendation, Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, Letter of Appreciation, Certificate of Commendation (Individual Award).
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Capt. Sean E. Elliott, one of the plane's pilots, had a longtime love affair with the C-130. His father, John Elliott, tells San Diego's Union-Tribune that his son used to take a model C-130 loaded with toy soldiers to bed when he was 4 years old. "He slept with it like you would a teddy bear," John Elliott said. "A big plane, in the bed. A silly plastic thing, with the toy soldiers inside. It went to bed with him every night for quite a long time." His mother, Cynthia Elliott, said her son was "enamored" with aircraft and the military at least since attending a childhood air show. A prep standout in tennis, the 6-foot 2-inch Elliott was renowned for a booming serve. His younger brother Erik went pro, but Sean Elliott went to officers' school, graduating from the University of California, Davis.n"He was always looking out for others, starting with me but then continuing to his fraternity brothers and his Marines," Erik Elliott said. Elliott got his Marine Corps call sign "Puffin" because he refused to hunt the nesting and defenseless birds during a stopover in Iceland, his father said.
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Gunnery Sgt. Mark A. Hopkins earned his rank in 2014. A Tactical Systems Operator and Mission Specialist from Chesapeake, Virginia, he was deployed several times for Operation Enduring Freedom and for a 2005 humanitarian mission. He was stationed at Stewart. Awards and decorations with (# of each award): Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (2), Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal (5); Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (4); Humanitarian Service Medal (4); Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation; Joint Meritorious Unit Award; Letter of Appreciation; Certificate of Appreciation.
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Gunnery Sgt. Brendan C. Johnson, 46, told his father he had the best job in the Marine Corps. Kevin Johnson of Colchester, Vermont, recalled his son said, "I get to fly everywhere." His son was based at Stewart, traveling back and forth across the Atlantic and Pacific and touring many countries. Brendan Johnson joined the Marines after graduating from Johnson State College in Vermont. A fine arts major, Johnson once surprised the family with portraits he painted based on old pictures of his grandfather and father-in-law when they graduated from Navy boot camp. The elder Johnson said his son, who was taking on more administrative work, was looking to retire next year. Plans included possibly returning to school for a master's degree and then moving from Newburgh New York, to Montana, home to his wife Anna. He said Brendan loved the outdoors and was considering a job as a park ranger or a fish and game warden. "He was thinking of looking into that, but he said, 'You know, I've got some time,'" Johnson said. "We'll miss him."
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Staff Sgt. Joshua M. Snowden, a flight engineer on the transport plane, grew up in the Dallas area and graduated from Highland Park High School in 2004, having already signed up for the Marines, The Dallas Morning News reports. Sara Quarterman, Snowden's sister, declined comment Wednesday to The Associated Press, saying "now is not a good time." She said family members would release a statement later. On Facebook, Quarterman wrote Tuesday that her 31-year-old brother "loved God, his family and friends, and his country. And he died serving his country and God." Snowden himself often displayed his Texas roots and love of the Dallas Cowboys on Facebook, even while stationed at Stewart.n"I can tell you that Josh loved his family and friends, God, his country, and country-western music and dancing," Snowden's aunt, Linda Hughes, told the Times Herald-Record of Middletown, New York. "He was one of the warmest, kindest, more patriotic people I've ever known."
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Staff Sgt. Robert H. Cox lived in Ventura, California. He specialized as a Critical Skills Operator and was deployed twice for Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was also deployed during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Inherent Resolve. Awards and decorations with (# of each award): Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (2); Combat Action Ribbon; Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal (1); Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal; Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (3); Afghanistan Campaign Medal (2); Armed Forces Reserve Medal (2); Iraq Campaign Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation; Navy Unit Commendation Medal; NATO Medal-ISAF Afghanistan; Letter of Appreciation.
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Staff Sgt. William J. Kundrat, 33, grew up in Frederick, Maryland, where the Marine's parents, Joseph and Lynda, still live. His mother confirmed her son's death in a telephone interview Wednesday with The Frederick News-Post. "Every breath of air you take, all the things you're able to do, you can do those things because of people like my son," she told the newspaper. "I'll never forget that." Kundrat graduated in 2002 from Gov. Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick, where he played football and lacrosse. He also was an Eagle Scout. After graduation, he joined the Marines. And in 2004, Kundrat married classmate Ashley Cregger, according to the paper. It said they lived in Holly Ridge, North Carolina, and had two children together. Kundrat served in Iraq, his mother said, later joining the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command 2nd Marine Raider battalion stationed at Camp Lejeune. Said his mother: "He was a great Marine."
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Sgt. Julian M. Kevianne, 31, joined the Marines in 2009 because he wanted to protect and defend the country, his brother told the Detroit Free Press. "The Marines knocked on my mother's door at 2 this morning," Carlo Kevianne said late Tuesday. "They said his plane went down, and they weren't able to find him." A new concrete walkway was poured Tuesday at Carlo Kevianne's home. Julian's mother, Tina Albo, carved a tribute to her late son: "Peace of my heart is in heaven." John Allen, a cousin of Kevianne, told The Detroit News that Kevianne talked about joining the military when he was younger. Allen said Kevianne could be quiet with people he didn't know, "but once he was comfortable with you, he was a loud blast of fun." "We don't have any words right now. We're hurting," sister Tania Kevianne, 27, told the Daily News. "He was the best man." Kevianne, a flight engineer, was based at Stewart and lived with his wife Sherry Jennings-Kevianne in New Windsor, New York.
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Sgt. Owen J. Lennon, 26, grew up in Pomona, New York, playing football and tennis for Ramapo High School in Rockland County before graduating in 2008. A man answering the phone at the family's home in Pomona confirmed the death to The Journal News, but said the family was grieving and declined to comment. Lennon's sister, Kelly Lennon, posted a remembrance on Facebook, saying, "You may have been the youngest, but we always looked up to you. Our hero, Owen Lennon. (broken heart) sending love to the other USMC families that lost loved ones last night." Lennon was stationed at Stewart.
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Sgt. Dietrich A. Schmieman joined the Marine Corps at age 19 with an ambition to serve in special operations, his father said. Schmieman, 26, grew up in Richland, Washington, and enlisted after completing an academic program that allows students to earn a college associate's degree while they finish high school, said his father Eric Schmieman.n"The most common comments his friends made about him were that he helped them, and he inspired them to live life to the fullest," Eric Schmieman told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "He certainly did that himself." He said his son served in a reconnaissance unit before joining the elite Raider command about two years ago. The Rev. Corey Smith of Richland Lutheran Church, who was Dietrich Schmieman's youth pastor from sixth grade until he enlisted, said the young man joined the Marines out of a desire to serve others.n"That's the kind of heart he had," he said in a phone interview. "He loved to help people."
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Sgt. Joseph J. Murray's family recalls him as a ukulele player, former surfer kid and deeply religious family man who excelled in the Marine Corps. Terry Murray told reporters Wednesday the 26-year-old special operations Marine had been a surfer at Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville, Florida, who surprised his military veteran parents by joining the Marines.nThe father said his son was at the center of family life and his Marine units, sharing his Christian faith by serving others and his country. Terry Murray said one Marine told him that Joseph hummed praise songs constantly on patrol. "When Joseph stopped singing praises, they took their safeties off their weapons, because they immediately thought something was up," Terry Murray said.nMurray leaves a widow, Gayle, and four children - a 5-year-old, a 3-year-old, and twin 1-year-olds. "He loved to play his guitar and ukulele for us," Gayle Murray said in a statement. "What he wanted most in the world besides our happiness was to destroy evil on this earth. Murray was stationed at Camp Lejeune.
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Sgt. Talon R. Leach called Callaway, Missouri, home. He specialized as a Critical Skills Operator and was active duty. Awards and decorations with (# of each award): Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Sea Service Deployment Ribbon; Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal (2); Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation; Certificate of Appreciation (3).
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Sgt. Chad E. Jenson was active duty in Special Operations Command at 2nd Raider Battalion. He called Los Angeles, California, home and attained his rank in September 2010. Awards and decorations with (# of each award): Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation; Certificate of Commendation (Individual Award) (2); Letter of Appreciation (3); Meritorious Mast (2).
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Corporal Daniel L. Baldassare, a 20-year-old from New Jersey, had wanted to be a Marine since he was in middle school, his friend Dan McGowan told WPIX-TV. "He actually would bring military gloves to football practice and play with them," said McGowan, who drove his friend to practice in high school. "He was a patriot and all he wanted to do was serve our country. Everyone had a lot of respect for Dan." On Wednesday, after the crewmaster of the KC-130 died in the Mississippi crash, a marine sergeant guarded the home where Baldassare grew up in suburban Colts Neck. That sergeant told the Asbury Park Press that Baldassare's family wanted privacy and was declining comment. "We're so sorry and our heart is just breaking, just breaking for them," neighbor Rosalind Innucci, said of Baldassare's parents and sister. Innucci has lived on street for 14 years. Baldassare was stationed at Stewart.
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Corporal Collin J. Schaaff was from Pierce, Washington. He was active duty and stationed at Stewart. Awards and decorations with (# of each award): Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Letter of Appreciation (2); Certificate of Commendation (Individual Award).
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Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Ryan Lohrey was a high school football standout in Indiana who had gotten married weeks before the crash. His father, Michael Lohrey, told The Herald Bulletin newspaper that his son enlisted in the Navy after high school and survived two tours overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan, making his death on the way to training all the more tragic. "I never would have expected this to happen," he said. Lohrey said his son, who had two children of his own, wanted to use his skills as a medic to eventually pursue a career in nursing. The younger Lohrey was married in early June.nA high school football and golf teammate, Chris Parrish, told the newspaper the Navy corpsman had a fearless streak when it came to BMX biking, skateboarding and roller-blading. "He wasn't scared of anything," Parrish said. "That's probably why he was so good in the Navy." Indiana's governor joined a congressman and senator in offering condolences.
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