The names of seven Marines -- the youngest just 19, the oldest 26 years old -- who were killed when a mortar exploded during a live-fire training exercise at an Army munitions depot in the Nevada desert were released Wednesday by Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
Pfc. Josh Martino
"We send our prayers and condolences to the families of the Marines and sailors who have been killed and injured in this tragic accident," said Brig. Gen. Jim Lukeman. "Our first priority is to provide them with the support they need during this very difficult time, and we're doing that right now."
They were all in the 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division.
The youngest to be killed when a 60-millimeter mortar shell exploded in a tube as Marines were preparing to fire it is Pfc. Josh Martino, 19, of Clearfield, Pa. Although he had only joined the Marine Corps in July 2012, he had dreamed about it most of his life, his mother told The Associated Press.
Lance Cpl. Joshua C. Taylor
"Since he was probably 8 years old he wanted to be a Marine," Karen Perry said. "That's all he wanted to do."
Although only 20 years old, Lance Cpl. David P. Fenn II, of Polk City, Fla., had been a Marine for almost three years, most recently deployed to Afghanistan. Lance Cpl. Roger W. Muchnick Jr., 23, of Fairfield, Conn., had also done a tour in Afghanistan and was thinking about returning to college, his grandfather told the AP.
"He was a fabulous kid. Just fabulous," his grandfather, Jerome Muchnick, 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. David P. Fenn II
Lance Cpl. Joshua C. Taylor, 21, of Marietta, Ohio, was planning to marry his fiancee in May, the AP said.
Lance Cpl. Roger W. Muchnick Jr.
What caused the deadly explosion is still under investigation. Military officials announced a blanket suspension of the 60mm mortars and tubes until a review of the incident is complete. Eight men were also injured in the blast.
The accident happened just before 10 p.m. Monday at Hawthorne Army Depot, a 230-square-mile ammunition storage and training facility just east of the California line.
“The Marines and Sailors of 1/9 performed superbly throughout the training at both locations,” said Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Andrew J. McNulty. “We expected to complete the exercise upon the conclusion of the night live fire training, which we were in the process of executing on that fateful evening.”
Lance Cpl. Mason J. Vanderwork
Lance Cpl. Mason J. Vanderwork, 21, of Hickory, N.C., had served overseas twice. He was married less than a year, and his wife, Taylor, 19, told The Charlotte Observer they planned to start a family.
“I’ve lost my husband and part of my military family and I just turned 19 years old," she told the newspaper. “I really want to be dreaming.”
Lance Cpl. William T. Wild IV, 21, of Anne Arundel, Md., became a Marine after graduating from high school. He had already been deployed twice to Afghanistan and once to Kuwait, his mother told the AP.
Lance Cpl. William Taylor Wild IV
Cpl. Aaron J. Ripperda, 26, of Madison, Ill., joined the service after graduating from a St. Louis culinary school, his father, Kent Ripperda, told the AP.
"He told us he always felt like he had a calling to join the Marines," Kent Ripperda told the AP. "I guess maybe it was a prestige thing."
Kent Ripperda also said his son was eager to go back to college and "get on with his life."
The injured were transported to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, Nev., for treatment and further evaluation. The Navy corpsman is considered very seriously injured; five others are seriously injured and two Marines have been treated for minor injuries and released, the Camp Lejeune statement read.
Cpl. Aaron J. Ripperda