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VA State Troopers Bates and Cullen Killed In Helicopter Crash

Jay Cullen, of Midlothian, Va. (Virginia State Police/Associated Press)

Photos provided by the Virginia State Police show Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, left, of Quinton, Va., and Lt. H. Jay Cullen, of Midlothian, Va. (Virginia State Police/Associated Press)

Rest in Peace, Brothers!

By Rachel Weiner August 13 at 5:20 PM
Two Virginia State troopers killed doing surveillance work during Saturday’s white nationalist rally in Charlottesville were well-known to Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

H. Jay Cullen, 48, was a veteran pilot who spent several years shepherding the governor around Virginia. Berke Bates, who would have turned 41 Sunday, was just beginning to realize a lifelong dream of becoming a helicopter pilot.

“I was close to both of those state troopers,” McAuliffe (D) said at a memorial service in Charlottesville on Sunday morning. “Jay Cullen had been flying me around for three-and-a-half years. Berke was part of my executive protection unit. He was part of my family. The man lived with me 24-7.”

Cullen was the commander of the aviation unit.

“They’re still coming to terms with it,” Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said of the troopers under Cullen’s supervision. “It’s very raw.”

While mourning their lost colleagues, troopers spent the night dealing with the aftermath of Saturday’s violent clashes in Charlottesville and with investigating the cause of the helicopter crash. The Bell 407 helicopter that Cullen piloted crashed at about 5 p.m. Saturday in a wooded area on Old Farm Road in Albemarle County. The crash was a few miles from the explosion of violence that left dead one woman who was a counter-protester to the demonstration by white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and Ku Klux Klan members.

 

The National Transportation Safety Board also is investigating the helicopter incident. Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the NTSB, said a preliminary investigation of the cause of the crash will take one to two weeks.

Knudson said there was no distress call from the helicopter before it crashed. The chopper took off from the Charlottesville airport at about 4 p.m., he said and crashed in a heavily wooded area about seven miles southwest. The helicopter caught fire when it fell, he said, with the bulk landing on the ground and some wreckage in the trees.

Cullen, of Midlothian, graduated from the Virginia State Police Academy in May 1994 and joined the Virginia State Police Aviation Unit in 1999. He became commander last February. He is survived by his wife and two sons.

Bates, of Quinton, had just transferred to the aviation unit in July from the governor’s protection detail.

“This is the job he always wanted, which was flying,” said Robert Bates, 80, who flew planes for the Navy and had helped his son learn the basics. “That’s what he wanted to do all his life.”

Cullen was texting with his father earlier in the day as the chaos unfolded.

“He said it was an absolute mess,” Henry Cullen recalled. But his son told him that he had been assigned to work the rally and would do his job.

“Jay was the greatest son a person could ever have, a great father to his two sons, a loving husband to his wife, Karen, and he was doing something that he loved,” his father said.

Perry Benshoof retired from the state police about a year ago; Cullen was his supervisor.

“I knew both of them, I flew with both of them. They were both just awesome guys,” he said. “Some people they just have that — they love doing what they do, and that’s the way Jay and Berke both were.”

Lynda Howard, who until last year worked as an administrative assistant in the aviation unit, said Cullen was “a wonderful person.”

“He was such a good supervisor, just kind and friendly to everyone,” Howard said. “People didn’t mind going to him with problems and questions. They knew he would help him out.”

Bates was recruited by the Virginia State Police from Florida, his father said, where he distinguished himself as a highway patrolman by rescuing a young girl who had been kidnapped.

“He made a lot of arrests,” Robert Bates said of his youngest son. “He was a good trooper.”

Bates met his wife, Amanda, in Florida. They were married in Richmond and have twin 11-year-olds, a boy, and a girl.

He was an avid hockey player at the University of Tennessee and afterward in minor leagues. The trooper’s son had just come back from a hockey camp in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Bates’s family was planning a trip to Richmond on Sunday for his birthday. Instead, they traveled there for his memorial service.

“Trooper Bates was my younger brother and I am eternally grateful for his service and sacrifice,” Bates’s brother, Craig Bates, wrote on Twitter. “I miss you, Berke.”

McAuliffe said Sunday that he had spent time Saturday night at Bates’s home, with his wife and children.

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Mississippi Plane Crash Claims 16 American Heroes

Rest In Peace — Semper Fi!

Associated Press, July 14, 2017

The 15 Marines and a Navy sailor killed in a military plane crash earlier this week in Mississippi came from around the country. Six of the Marines and the sailor were from an elite Marine Raider battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Nine were based out of Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York, home of a Marine Aerial Refueling and Transport Squadron.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said the final set of remains was recovered Thursday from a farm field where the KC-130 crashed Monday. Most of the remains have since been flown to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where military officials say they will be processed by Air Force Mortuary personnel and then released to their grieving families. Here are brief portraits of some of the victims:

Dietrich 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.

“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.  “That’s the kind of heart he had,” he said in a phone interview. “He loved to help people.”

Capt. Sean 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.

“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.

Navy Corpsman 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.

A 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.

“Words cannot express the depth of sorrow I feel for his wife and two young children, especially,” Gov. Eric Holcomb said.

Staff Sgt. William Joseph 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.”

Gunnery Sgt. Brendan 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.”

Sgt. Julian 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 New York 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.

Owen 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.

Joseph 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.

The 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.

Murray 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.

Dan Baldassare, 20, 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 crew master of the KC-130 died in the Mississippi crash, a marine sergeant guarded the home where Baldassare grew up in suburban Colts Neck, New Jersey.

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.

Staff Sgt. Joshua 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.

“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.”

Maj. Caine Goyette was a KC-130 Aircraft Commander, the Marines said in a news release Friday.

He had been deployed for Operation Enduring Freedom in September 2005, and was the recipient of many awards and decorations including the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal; the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal; the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Gunnery Sgt. Mark Hopkins was from Chesapeake, Virginia, the Marines said in a news release Friday. He was a tactical systems operator/mission specialist.He was the recipient of several awards and decorations, including the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal; Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Sea Service Deployment Ribbon; Humanitarian Service Medal; and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

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New WZW Embroidered Blue Badge CIB Polos For Army Veterans

New! War Zone Wear's Blue Badge Polo Shirt.

New! War Zone Wear’s Blue Badge Polo Shirt.

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Men’s Egyptian ringspun cotton pique polo’s are stain release and superbly tailored. The classic fit polo is 9 oz, 3 button placket with bone horn buttons, rib knit and curl free collar, tail back, side vents and banded sleeves.
Sizes X-Small to X-Large — $65.99
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Dover by John Flynn

Honoring our Fallen Heroes lost in The Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq. Rest in Peace, Brothers, and Sisters!

Coffins of dead U.S. soldiers arriving at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware in 2006. (U.S. government photo)

Dover Lyrics by John Flynn
Elijah was a sergeant, 42 years old
from Mesa Arizona, Elijah won’t grow old
Patrick was with C Troop, Second Armored Cav
His buddies all remember how Patrick loved to laugh
Seth was from East Brunswick, just a newly wed
Somewhere in New Jersey a young widow bows her head
Daniel was from Boston shipped out from Fort Bragg
His mother got back Daniel with a folded flag

Oh big airplane bring’em down easy
Out of the Delaware skies
Oh big airplane Dover is waiting
to welcome the fallen you fly

William was in Anbar, combat engineer
1st Marine Division, William isn’t here
Alan rebuilt bridges for Battalion B
Next to cause of death they wrote the letters I E D
Gussie was a scrub nurse hailing from Fort Bliss
Gussie had a spirit this world’s gonna miss
Jeremiah’s son cries on his mamma’s knee
There was no armor plating on his dad’s humvee

Oh big airplane bring’em down easy
Out of the Delaware skies
Oh big airplane Dover is waiting
to welcome the fallen you fly

Scrubbed wooden pallets with white straps cinched over
Long boxes of flag draped aluminum
The C-5 is crowded when it lands in Dover
The honor guard boards and makes room again

Making straight for Nineveh, just like Jonah’s whale
Holy truth you swallow, overseas you sail
Precious is the cargo sacred was their gift
offered in a sandstorm from which your wings lift
Those who would take notice can’t watch you set down
Behind barbed wire fences miles from their town
No one breathes to question this silent parade
Except for the anguished loved ones left to say

Oh big airplane bring’em down easy
Out of the Delaware skies
Oh big airplane Dover is waiting
to welcome the heroes you fly home

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USMC — 1st Platoon, K Company, Class 5-67 The “Lucky Ones”

The Basic Officer Course graduation picture for 1st Platoon, K Company, Class 5-67. (U.S. Marine Corps) . Barents, top row, fourth from left. Chaconas, bottom row, third from left. Callanan, top row, second from right.

Paul and Kathryn Barents (Left), George Chaconas (Center), Jack Callanan, Members of 5-67

The complete Washington Post story can photos can be found here.

As pointed out in the fine Post piece, the young Marine Officers who graduated from Class of 5-67 went off to face some of the fiercest fighting the Vietnam War had to offer. The years 1967 and 1968 saw 28,300 Americans killed — nearly half of the 58,000+ names on The Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial.

This week — May 3rd through May 6th — those who survived the war and those still able to travel, will hold a reunion. Welcome Home, Brothers, and Sisters! Semper Fi!

Thanks to Rich Roan for bringing this to our attention!

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Army Rangers Sgt. Joshua P. Rodgers and Sgt. Cameron H. Thomas

Sgt. Joshua P. Rodgers, left, and Sgt. Cameron H. Thomas were killed during a raid in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. (U.S. Army)

Rest in peach, Brothers!

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War Zone Wear Joins IAWA

The Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA.org), has launched #SheWhoBorneTheBattle.  War Zone Wear, LLC strongly supports all Veterans’ organizations with life memberships and donations to the American Legion, Combat Infantrymen’s Association, Disabled American Veteran, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Vietnam Veterans of America and now we join the ranks of the IAVA with donations and to support our Brothers and Sisters in Arms. We encourage others to do so as well and if possible to donate!

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Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens

Click Trident to read Ted Gregory’s Chicago Tribune story.

Chief Petty Officer William Ryan Owens was Killed In Action in Yemen on Saturday, January 28th. Rest in Peace Chief Owens.

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