They were known for their quiet professionalism and dedication. One recently received a high military honor for rendering aid to a wounded comrade in Afghanistan while under enemy fire. One had served a tour in Kosovo.
The 11 service members who died in an Army Black Hawk helicopter crash Tuesday off the Florida Panhandle weren’t only a loss to their country. They leave behind wives, fiancees, parents, children and friends. They will be missed. And remembered.
Seven of those on the helicopter were Marines based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Four served with the Louisiana National Guard.
Louisiana National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 4 George Wayne Griffin Jr., 37
A 21-year member of the Guard, Griffin had served in Iraq in 2004-05 and 2008-09. He’d also been deployed during Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Isaac, said Maj. Gen. Glenn Curtis, adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard.
“G. Wayne Griffin was born to be an Army aviator,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Reggie Lane on the state Guard’s website. “He had a tremendous passion for flying.”
Griffin, a resident of Delhi, is survived by his wife and four children.
Louisiana National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 4 George David Strother, 44
The Alexandria resident was known for his outsized personality.
“He was more like a force of nature,” said Maj. Andre Jeansonne of the 135th Aviation Regiment. “His huge heart touched the lives of all he met.”
Strother had deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and just last year to Kosovo. He also served during Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Isaac.
He commissioned as a warrant officer but went on to become an instructor pilot with more than 2,400 flight hours, including more than 700 combat hours.
Strother leaves behind a wife, a son and a stepdaughter.
Louisiana National Guard Staff Sgt. Lance Bergeron, 40
Bergeron enlisted in the Marines in 1998 and joined the National Guard in 2001.
He’d deployed to Iraq twice and served during state deployments for Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Isaac.
Sgt. 1st Class Brian Marquez called Bergeron one of the most qualified crew chiefs in the Guard, with more than 1,300 flight hours, including 377 combat hours. “He was a subject matter expert in his job,” Marquez said.
The Thibodaux resident is survived by his wife and two children.
Louisiana National Guard Staff Sgt. Thomas Florich, 26
Florich came from Fairfax County, Virginia, and enlisted in the Louisiana National Guard in 2007 as a Black Hawk repairer.
He served during state deployments for Operation Deepwater Horizon and Hurricane Isaac, the Guard’s website said.
“Tom was full of life, and his personality could light the room,” Marquez said. “He will be greatly missed by the unit and the flight facility.”
Florich is survived by his wife, father and stepmother. He was posthumously promoted from sergeant to staff sergeant.
Marine Staff Sgt. Marcus ‘Marc’ S. Bawol, 26
Theresa D. Hipple was thrilled her stepdaughter, Erika, planned to marry Bawol this October. After all, the Warren, Michigan, Marine “was an all-around wonderful guy — the kind of guy you would want your daughter to marry,” Hipple told The Macomb Daily in Michigan.
High school chums told the newspaper they jokingly called Bawol “The Patriot” because he always seemed to do the proper thing. He was a stand-up guy you could depend on. Friends said Bawol enjoyed hunting trips and was in peak physical shape.
Bawol had completed a tour in Afghanistan.
“The pain will linger,” Hipple said. “I don’t know that you ever get over it.”
Bawol joined the Marines while attending Olivet College to play baseball.
Marine Staff Sgt. Trevor P. Blaylock, 29
The Orion Veterans Memorial in Lake Orion, Michigan, contains a brick with Blaylock’s name and the words “U.S. Marines.”
For his wife and two daughters, the meaning of that brick this week took on new meaning, police Chief Jerry Nash told the Oakland Press.
“He gave everything he had to ensure that we’re free and safe, and that’s all that we can ever ask of our servicemen,” Narsh said.
Blaylock, a swimmer in high school, attended Henry Ford Community College before enlisting.
He was deployed to Iraq in 2007 and 2008. He was deployed to Afghanistan from 2013 to 2014.
Marine Staff Sgt. Liam A. Flynn, 33
Flynn hailed from Reading, England, and moved to Queens, New York, in 2002. He enlisted four years later and was sent to Iraq the next year.
A stint in Afghanistan followed, from January to September 2012.
He saw service there again from November 2013 to June 2014.
Marine Staff Sgt. Kerry M. Kemp, 27
Kemp, a native of Memphis, Tennessee, moved as a child to Port Washington, Wisconsin. He was proud to be a Marine, husband and a dad. His daughter turns 1 later this month.
The sergeant was a pretty private guy and didn’t talk a lot about his service, his sister-in-law told CNN affiliate WISN-TV in Wisconsin.
But he knew how to have fun. When he wasn’t golfing or at the ocean on his time off, Kemp horsed around with his nephews, WISN reported.
“He would wrestle with them. He really got into that, the wrestling and playing. He’d carry them around on his back,” said sister-in-law Lora Waraksa.
Kemp saw service in Iraq as a machine gunner and went to Afghanistan from November 2013 to June 2014.
Marine Staff Sgt. Andrew C. Seif, 26
Just last week, the Fairbanks, Alaska, native received the Silver Star for conspicuous gallantry while rendering aid to a wounded buddy in Afghanistan.
Seif and his small team moved in on a compound on July 24, 2012, while searching for an expert on improvised explosive devices. A sergeant was wounded by gunfire.
Seif, without waiting for reinforcements, “dynamically and courageously” secured the compound, took out the enemy insurgent and tried to help his comrade, all while under enemy fire. The wounded sergeant did not survive.
“Marines never leave anybody behind,” Marine Maj. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman said at the ceremony at Camp Lejeune. Seif’s wife was with him during the medal presentation.
Seif was named the USO’s Marine of the Year in 2013. The organization cited his heroism in Afghanistan and his commander’s description of the Marine’s “tenacity, vigor and common sense that he applies to every task or endeavor he undertakes.”
His family moved to Holland, Michigan, when he was a teen. He deployed to Iraq in 2008 and was sent to Afghanistan a couple years later.
Marine Master Sgt. Thomas A. Saunders, 33
Saunders lived in Williamsburg, Virginia, a city important in the early history of the Colonies and the move toward independence from Britain.
He was born in Bonn, Germany, and graduated from high school in Virginia. His deployments included Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Marine Corps Association and Foundation named Saunders the “critical skills operator of the year” in 2014.
The Marine leaves behind his wife and son.
Marine Capt. Stanford H. Shaw III, 31
A native of Basking Ridge, New Jersey, Shaw was captain of the varsity lacrosse team and high school student government president at Ridge High School.
He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and became a Marine officer. Shaw was deployed to Anbar province in Iraq in 2007 and returned there in 2009. He also saw service in Japan.