KUWAIT -- Service members gathered in a maintenance hangar May 24 to honor and remember five Marines died May 19 while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Capt. Andrew D. LaMont, 32, San Diego, Calif., Capt. Timothy L. Ryan, 30, St. Louis, Mo., Staff Sgt. Aaron D. White, 27, Oklahoma City, Okla., and Lance Cpl. Jason W. Moore, 21, San Diego, Calif., from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364, were killed when their CH-46E Sea Knight crashed in the Shatt Al-Hillah Canal near Al-Hillah, Iraq. Sgt. Kirk Straseskie, from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, also died when he drowned while trying to rescue the crew.
The squadron commander of the "Purple Foxes" spoke proudly of the crew.
"Today we honor four of our best and brightest warriors while feeling deep sorrow for the loved ones left behind," said Lt. Col. Ronald Radich, HMM-364 commanding officer. "These magnificent young men embodied the highest qualities of what it means to be a Marine."
Radich had worked with the four Marines and shared fond memories he had of them.
"As their commanding officer I cherish with a fatherly pride the memories of great things they have done," he said. "They fought valiantly for our country during war - protecting and ensuring the freedoms that we cherish so much back at home."
Four Marines from HMM-364 gave touching eulogies for the Marines, highlighting how much they all would be missed and talking about the families they left behind.
To one side of the hanger, near an exit, was a metal folding chair draped with cloth. On it set pictures of the Marines in a wooden frame. After the service, a group crowded around the display to pay homage. In turn, each Marine knelt, took a few quiet moments to gaze on their lost brothers.
On the opposite side, near the front and next to the color guard, stood four rifles with their barrels pointed to the earth. On the stock of the rifles rested black flight helmets, the visors raised. When the service was over, a Marine was seen to approach the memorial, kneel, and take a few moments to pray.
The executive officer of MAG-39 explained the reason why these men had gone on mission after mission throughout the conflict without hesitation - why they had become Marines.
"The only way for evil men to triumph is for good men to do nothing," said Lt. Col. Michael Hudson, MAG-39 executive officer, quoting Edmund Burke. "These Marines were here because for them doing nothing was not an option."
The Marines from HMM-364 were conducting a re-supply mission in support of civil military operations when their helicopter went down. The cause of the crash is under investigation.