NAVARRE, Florida (MEDIA GENERAL) – Seven Marines and four soldiers died when a Black Hawk helicopter crashed Tuesday night in the Santa Rosa Sound along the Florida Panhandle during a training exercise.
Military officials haven’t said what caused the crash, but the weather was bad enough for another helicopter on the training run to return to land.
The military has not yet officially released the names of the Marines and soldiers onboard. However, some family members have identified their loved ones. Here is what we know so far:
Marcus Bawol from Warren, Michigan, “loved everything about the military,” said his sister, Brandy Peek.
“He couldn’t wait to join. He wanted to fight for our country and was always striving to be the best Marine he could be.”
The 27-year-old graduated in 2006 from Warren Mott High School. Bawol played baseball and football and was a member of the school’s swim team, according to district Superintendent Robert Livernois.
Bawol attended Olivet College for a year, where he was a catcher on the baseball team.
He had planned to marry his fiancée in October, Peek said.
On Thursday, Warren Mayor Jim Fouts ordered flags in the city, just north of Detroit, flown at half-staff.
The Holland Sentinel reports another Michigan member of the crew was U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Andrew Seif from Holland. A wedding website lists Seif as a groomsman for Bawol.
WOOD TV reports military members who were at the family’s Holland home Wednesday said that Seif’s status was “unknown.” When asked why they were at the home if Seif’s status was unclear, they said it was because there was a “possibility” he may have been on the helicopter.
“I know he’s a very humble Marine; very soft spoken,” MARSOC public affairs officer Capt. Barry Morris said of Seif in a phone interview. “Loved his family, loved his country and loved the Marine Corps.”
Seif, 27, accepted the Silver Star on Friday. It’s the military’s third-highest honor. During a tour in Afghanistan in 2012, Seif and Sgt. Justin Hansen came under fire while seeking out a bomb maker. Hansen was wounded. Seif cared for his fellow Marine and carried out the mission alone, killing the bomb maker, before returning to help Hansen. At times, Seif even shielded Hansen with his own body. Still, Hansen died as a result of his injuries.
Seif was also named the 2013 Marine of the Year for the same act that earned him the Silver Star. “He’s certainly a hero in my eyes,” Capt. Morris said. “I deeply respect him for his actions and what he’s done for our country.”
Seif accepted his Silver Star on behalf of his team and Hansen’s family. He also spoke about caring for the families of fallen Marines.
“Make sure you remember those families out there. Contact them, let them know they’re still part of the family. I appreciate it,” Seif said.
WDIV is reporting Trevor Blaylock, of Lake Orion, Michigan was also on the helicopter.
Kerry Kemp was the proud father of a baby just shy of her first birthday and loved horsing around with his nephews.
“He would wrestle with them. He really got into that, the wrestling and playing. He’d carry them around on his back,” said his sister-in-law, Lora Waraksa.
He was a “proud Marine, a loving husband and most wonderful father,” she said. He also loved golfing and the ocean — he often took his nephews out to hunt for sea shells.
Kemp met his wife, Jenna, at Port Washington High School in Wisconsin, where he was voted “best smile” by his senior class. He graduated in 2005.
He was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
Gannett Louisiana is reporting David Strother was one of four Louisiana National Guardsmen serving onboard the Black Hawk that crashed. Strother had attended Pineville High School in Louisiana. He’s a pilot who served overseas tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Gannett Louisiana.