In a somber scene, coalition forces gathered to memorialize the six Marines with the squadron who died when their CH-53D Sea Stallion heavy-lift helicopter crashed supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Jan. 19.
During the ceremony’s final roll call, Sgt. Maj. Mitchell Green, the squadron’s sergeant major, called the names of the fallen – Capt. Daniel B. Bartle, a native of Ferndale, Wash.; Capt. Nathan R. McHone, from Crystal Lake, Ill.; Master Sgt. Travis Riddick, a native of Centerville, Iowa; Cpl. Joseph D. Logan, of Willis, Texas; Cpl. Kevin J. Reinhard, from Colonia, N.J.; and Cpl. Jesse W. Stites, who grew up in Roxana, Ill., and Interlachen, Fla.
“It is difficult to be here, easier to suppress our emotions and move on with our daily routine,” said Lt. Col. Mark Revor, commanding officer of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363, in his remarks at the ceremony. “It is difficult because they were more than friends, more than family – they were our brothers and our comrades.”
A few hundred yards from the chapel, outside the squadron’s hangar, the American flag flew at half-staff beside the squadron’s sign depicting their logo, “The Lucky Red Lions.”
“It’s hard to feel lucky today, but I know that I could not describe [it] better than to say I was lucky to serve with these men, lucky to have known them as well as I did,” said Revor, “and I will be lucky indeed if I can brighten the days and nights of my friends the way that they brightened mine.”
The squadron, deployed from Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, wields CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopters to provide heavy-lift capability to 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), moving cargo and troops across the battlespace.
As the aviation combat element for the southwestern regional command of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) offers air support for coalition forces operating in Helmand and Nimruz provinces.
While the Jan. 19 crash is currently under investigation, NATO officials said there were no signs of enemy activity in the area at the time of the incident.
“Every Marine in this squadron understands the dangers of our job, but that doesn’t make it any easier when something like this happens,” Green said. “People are shocked, people are upset and people are hurt. We still have a mission to do, and it’s not done until we’re heading back home to Hawaii.”
From “Marines in Afghanistan honor brethren killed in helicopter crash”
1/24/2012 By Cpl. Brian Adam Jones, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd)