Marines killed in Nevada training were young

Military

Marines killed in Nevada training were young

Posted: Updated:

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (AP) -- They're called "leathernecks" or "Devil Dogs," but some of the Marines killed in a desert training accident this week were just a year or so out of high school, their boyish faces not yet weathered by life's hardships

Just 19, Pfc. Josh Martino of Dubois, Pa., had already spent nearly half his young life dreaming of becoming one of "the few, the proud." He had joined in July and was hoping to marry his fiancee later this year before being deployed to Afghanistan, his mother said.

"Since he was probably 8 years old he wanted to be a Marine," Karen Perry said Wednesday after meeting with military officials to start planning her son's funeral. "That's all he wanted to do."

Lance Cpl. Josh Taylor, 21, also seemed to have been born for the Corps. The Marietta, Ohio, native had talked about being a Marine since he was about 5, said his grandfather, Larry Stephens. Josh, too, was planning for a wedding, scheduled for May.

Both young men were among seven members of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force killed late Monday when a mortar shell exploded in its firing tube during an exercise at Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada. Eight men were injured, some severely.

A decade after the invasion of Iraq and nearly 12 years since the United States launched the global war on terror, Americans have become wearily accustomed to the sight of flag-draped coffins being solemnly offloaded at Dover Air Force Base. But news of such loss on American soil, far from any foreign battlefield, has the power to shock.

---

During the past dozen years, barber Kenton Jones has touched the heads of many Marines and their family members. And they have touched him. Some of the men who've sat in his chair at Sharpe Cuts II - just up a busy highway from Lejeune's main gate - came home from the Middle East in coffins.

Staring out his window, he couldn't help wondering whether any of those killed or wounded in Nevada had come under his shears.

"During a time of war or whatever, the occupation ... you kind of expect it," he says. "But when it happens here, it seems senseless and it seems like a loss that could have been prevented."

Down the road in Jacksonville, Marine veteran Guy Henry Woods led out-of-state relatives on a tour of the Beirut Memorial, built to honor the 241 Marines, sailors and other American service members who died in a 1983 truck bombing that destroyed their barracks in the Lebanese capital.

Woods, 66, was wounded twice in Vietnam and spent time in a U.S. Navy hospital in Guam. Surrounded by curved glass walls etched with the names of the fallen, Woods said it mattered not whether these Marines died in an accident here at home or on a distant battlefield.

"They put that uniform on, they gain the same respect as anybody that's been to war," the grizzled 20-year veteran said over the sound of the dancing water in the memorial's fountain. "That's the way I personally look at it myself. I still respect them, and I sympathize with them for what happened."

---

The average age of the seven Marines killed was 22, a Marine official said. Some had served overseas; others were training for their first deployment.

While many had long dreamed of being Marines, some were already making plans for a life after the Corps.

Twenty-six-year-old Aaron Ripperda of Highland, Ill., joined the service after graduating from a St. Louis culinary school and finding the job market flat. His father tried to gently dissuade him.

"He told us he always felt like he had a calling to join the Marines," Kent Ripperda told The Associated Press from his home in Marine, Ill. "I guess maybe it was a prestige thing."

During a 2010 deployment in Afghanistan, Ripperda's mobile unit was responsible for transporting food to bases in the region, Justin Bergstrom, a fellow Marine, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in an email.

"He did talk about his cooking abilities," Bergstrom wrote. They joked about him being able to keep his fellow Marines fed.

Kent Ripperda said his son was eager to go back to college and "get on with his life."

Roger Muchnick, 23, who grew up in Westport, Conn., had already pulled one tour in Afghanistan and was thinking about returning to college after his enlistment was up, said his grandfather, Jerome Muchnick.

Muchnick played on the football and lacrosse teams at Staples High School and went on to play lacrosse at Eastern Connecticut State University, where he studied business. In a biography on the university's website, Muchnick said the one thing he would like to do before he died was "live," and that his most embarrassing moment was getting caught lip-synching in a school talent show.

"He was a fabulous kid. Just fabulous," his grandfather said. "He was at the top of his game when this happened. ... You can't imagine losing a very handsome, 23-year-old grandson who was vital and loving."

Lance Cpl. William Taylor Wild IV, 21, joined the Marines shortly after graduating in 2010 form Severna Park High School near Annapolis, Md. His mother, Elizabeth Wild, said he was in a weapons platoon that was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan in November. He already had been deployed twice to Afghanistan and once to Kuwait.

Wild said her son always wanted to go into the military, like his father, who is a command chief in the Air Force Reserve at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

The Marines wouldn't name all seven killed until later Wednesday, after the last of the families are notified, but many family members confirmed their losses publicly Wednesday.

---

The explosion Monday caused an immediate suspension of the use of 60 mm mortars by the Marine Corps, with an exemption for troops in Afghanistan, U.S. military and Marine officials said. Marine units on the warfront may continue to use the mortars with the review and approval of their commanders. U.S. military officials in Afghanistan said they have not stopped using the mortars there.

The suspension, which will be in effect until the accident investigation is complete, largely affects units that are training, although those Marines could use the larger and more powerful 81 mm mortar systems if needed.

At Camp Lejeune, an 170-square-mile base and home to about 50,000 uniformed troops, counselors at the Naval Hospital were gearing up to offer help as the ripples from Monday's tragedy began reaching family and friends, barracks mates and survivors, said Dr. Sawsan Ghurani, director of mental health programs at the hospital.

"It's so unexpected that it's more of a shock than if you'd been mentally prepared" for battlefield casualties, said Ghurani, a psychiatrist and Navy captain. "You hope people don't die in war, but it is a common occurrence and whereas, in training exercises, it's very rare."

The ages of the victims make it even worse, Ghurani said.

"For me, it's especially tragic when they are so young and still have so much left to give in life and to experience in life that it just seems unfair," she said. But, she added, "The nature of the military culture is to be selfless."

  • Email Alert Sign Up

    Sign up here to receive breaking news stories from KSWT.com and morning updates to your email inbox.

    * denotes required fields


    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.

KSWT-TV Affiliates

Go to KSWT-TV's Facebook page
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Father beats accused child abuser, Daytona police say

    Father beats accused child abuser, Daytona police say

    Police say a Daytona Beach father beat an 18-year-old man unconscious after finding him sexually abusing his son. Authorities say the father called 911 early Friday after he walked in on the alleged abuse.Frolander motionless on the living room floor. He had several knots on his face and was bleeding from the mouth. Police said the father -- who was not identified -- told investigators he walked in as Frolander was abusing the boy. Police did not release the boy's age, but Frolander is charge...More >>
    Police say a Daytona Beach father beat an 18-year-old man unconscious after finding him sexually abusing his son. Authorities say the father called 911 early Friday after he walked in on the alleged abuse.Frolander motionless on the living room floor. He had several knots on his face and was bleeding from the mouth. Police said the father -- who was not identified -- told investigators he walked in as Frolander was abusing the boy. Police did not release the boy's age, but Frolander is charge...More >>
  • Yuma Shooting Victim Identified; Vigil Held

    Yuma Shooting Victim Identified; Vigil Held

    YUMA - Friends and family gathered outside Jimmie Dee's bar Sunday night to say goodbye to Frank Salazar, Jr. Yuma police are confirming the identification of the 28-year-old shooting victim, who diedMore >>
    YUMA - Friends and family gathered outside Jimmie Dee's bar Sunday night to say goodbye to Frank Salazar, Jr. Yuma police are confirming the identification of the 28-year-old shooting victim, who died outside the local bar early Friday morning.More >>
  • Crime Watch

    Police investigating dead body found in parked car

    Police investigating dead body found in parked car

    YUMA, Ariz. (13 On Your Side) - Yuma police say a dead woman was found in a car parked at Food City on 8th Street on Tuesday night, at around 6:20 p.m. Police are investigating her cause of death andMore >>
    Yuma police are investigating the death of a woman who was found in a parked car Tuesday night.More >>
  • Coming soon...Wal-Mart

    Coming soon...Wal-Mart

    On Wednesday the Yuma City Council voted to change the zoning designation on the proposed land acquired by Wal-Mart. The property located near the intersection of Avenue B and 8th Street was the home of a mobile home park as zones for residential use; the new designation changes that to mixed which will allow the new store to move in to the property. The new store will be the fifth Wal-Mart for Yuma County.More >>
    On Wednesday the Yuma City Council voted to change the zoning designation on the proposed land acquired by Wal-Mart. The property located near the intersection of Avenue B and 8th Street was the home of a mobile home park as zones for residential use; the new designation changes that to mixed which will allow the new store to move in to the property. The new store will be the fifth Wal-Mart for Yuma County.More >>
  • Severed pig heads dumped outside Mexicali Police Department

    Severed pig heads dumped outside Mexicali Police Department

    Mexicali, B.C.--Two severed pig heads were left outside a Mexicali's state police sub-station Wednesday morning. State police said they don't want to jump to conclusions and say its a message from organizedMore >>
    Two severed pig heads were left outside a Mexicali's state police sub-station Wednesday morning.More >>
  • Woman arrested to allegedly smuggling drugs into Calipatria State Prison

    Woman arrested to allegedly smuggling drugs into Calipatria State Prison

    CALIPATRIA, CA - A woman visiting an inmate at a local prison winds up behind bars herself for trying to smuggle in drugs. Calipatria State Prison officials say 25-year-old Veronica Delgado was visitingMore >>
    CALIPATRIA, CA - A woman visiting an inmate at a local prison winds up behind bars herself for trying to smuggle in drugs. Calipatria State Prison officials say 25-year-old Veronica Delgado was visiting an inmate in facility C yesterday, when an officer noticed something in her mouth. More >>
  • Yuma

    Police offer advice for people in a robbery situation

    Police offer advice for people in a robbery situation

    YUMA, AZ (13 On Your Side) - Over the past month there have been a string of convenience store robberies around town. Most recently, one suspect - who police say - robbed three Circle Ks within 48 hours.More >>
    Over the past month there have been a string of convenience store robberies around town.More >>
  • Teen involved in fatal crash may be charged; but as a minor

    Teen involved in fatal crash may be charged; but as a minor

    Earlier this month the Yuma County Attorney's Office reported that they would not seek any charges against 17 year old Andrea Ducos. Ducos who is suspected to have caused the accident that led to the death 96 year old Lucienne Sears will not face any charges as an adult. But, charges are still pending in Juvenile Court; Ducos is facing charges of negligent homicide, aggravated assault, causing death my use of a vehicle, driving without a license and driving while intoxicated. According to a r...More >>
    Earlier this month the Yuma County Attorney's Office reported that they would not seek any charges against 17 year old Andrea Ducos. Ducos who is suspected to have caused the accident that led to the death 96 year old Lucienne Sears will not face any charges as an adult. But, charges are still pending in Juvenile Court; Ducos is facing charges of negligent homicide, aggravated assault, causing death my use of a vehicle, driving without a license and driving while intoxicated. According to a r...More >>