Veterans answer call to help families of fallen marines

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Numerous businesses and individuals are joining forced to support the families of the fallen seven Marines from Camp Lejeune.

Five children under the age of five. Two children on the way. Wives. Fiancees. Countless loved ones.

These are the legacies left behind by the seven Camp Lejeune Marines who lost their lives in a helicopter crash during training in Florida this week.

For the families left behind, it's an unspeakable loss. The basics are hard to navigate. That's why the convoy of black vehicles came into Sneads Ferry from Cary Friday afternoon.

The mission for the U.S. Veterans Corps is simple -- answer the call at a moment's notice.

"People know us as the black shirts," said USVC executive director Andrew Ladner. "About 10 percent of our mission, it's never on social media. We've never shown on camera."

But social media is exactly what connected the Triangle veterans with coastal veterans, volunteers and the Marine Corps Special Operations command, home to the seven fallen troops.

The Marines, identified by their command on Friday, ranged in age from 26 to 33. Word quickly spread around the tight-knit community outside the Camp Lejeune gates.

Nancy Greene, a Marine veteran, goes to church with part of the MARSOC command. On Thursday, she hopped on Facebook to start gathering help to provide hot meals, housekeeping, and morale boosters for the family.

"To kind of ease their burden. They have extended families here. The last thing they need to do is worry about cooking. Worry about cleaning their house, anything like that," said Greene.

That call for help was answered immediately.

"Less than 24 hours. Talk about mobilization," said Greene. "Less than 24 hours."

Greene connected with Sherri Yuhas, a football mom from Dixon High School in Sneads Ferry, and a former military spouse who helped mobilize other mothers. That led to a call to the USVC in Cary. On Friday morning, the USVC took $1,000, did quick shopping for non-perishables in the Triangle, picked up toys leftover from their annual drives, and hit the road to Onslow County.

Local volunteers fixed the hot meals to send straight to the families.

By 2:30 p.m., the volunteers met in Sneads Ferry with car loads of supplies for seven young families.

"We have five children who will not grow up with their father and two on the way," said Yuhas. "So this is a true gift. It's a blessing."

"This is what it's all about," said Jennifer Woods, an Air Force veteran with USVC.

The group headed to Coastal Mini Storage, where the owners displayed a sign reading "Our thoughts & prayers are with the families & our military affected by this crash."

An American flag flew overhead at half-staff as the non-perishable food, bikes, bottled water and treats were loaded into storage.

"After the funerals and all this stuff, this will be a smile on the kids' faces," said Greene. "It's a tragedy, but in Sneads Ferry, in North Carolina, in this area people are willing to reach out and help."

Names of 7 Marines killed in helicopter crash released

Also on Friday, military officials released the names of the Marines killed. All were from the 2nd Special Operations Battalion of the Marine Corps Special Operations Command at Camp Lejeune.

Here are some of their stories:


On March 6, just days before the helicopter crash, Staff Sgt. Andrew C. Seif was awarded the Silver Star Medal.

Seif, 26, received the award for facing enemy fire to save a mortally wounded friend in Afghanistan in July 2012.

The Camp Lejeune Globe reported that Seif was from Holland, Michigan. He grew up playing soldier in his backyard and joined the Marines just weeks after graduating from high school.

By 2012, he was a critical skills operator with the 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command. Seif and his teammate, Sgt. Justin Hansen, were closing in on one of western Afghanistan's bomb experts, according to the paper. They came under fire, and Hansen was hit. Seif moved Hansen to safer position, treated his teammate's wounds and returned fire.

"The fact that (Seif) continued to fight through the objective to get Sgt. Hansen taken care of, putting himself in the line of fire, speaks volumes to who he is and demonstrates that he would never leave a Marine behind," said Maj. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman.

Seif's wife was at his side when he received the medal.

He was born in Fairbanks, Alaska.

"I think sometimes the worst situations bring out the best in people, and that day a lot of people showed their worth," Seif told the newspaper.



Staff Sgt. Trevor P. Blaylock, 29, was born in Lake Orion, Michigan, and swam on the varsity swim team. Upon graduation, he attended Henry Ford Community College.

In 2006, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and was previously stationed at Camp Pendleton in California.

He served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in Al Anbar Province.



Born in Bonn, Germany, Master Sgt. Thomas A. Saunders, 33, enlisted in the Marines after graduating from high school in Virginia. Following basic training in 1999, he was assigned to Camp LeJeune.

He deployed in Kosovo and served in Operation Iraqi Freedom with a special operations task force.



Born in Reading, England, Staff Sgt. Liam Flynn, 33, moved to Queens, New York in 2002.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps that year. After boot camp, he was assigned to Camp LeJeune.

He served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.



Capt. Stanford Henry Shaw III, 31, was from Basking Ridge, New Jersey, and attended Ridge High School, where he was student government president and captain of the varsity lacrosse team.

He attended the United States Naval Academy and upon his graduation in 2006 became a commissioned Marine officer. After graduating from the Infantry Officer Course, he was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines.

He served two tours of duty in Iraq, according to information provided by the Marines at Camp Lejeune.



Staff Sgt. Marcus S. Bawol of 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 fiance in October, Peek said.

On Thursday, Warren Mayor Jim Fouts ordered flags in the city, just north of Detroit, flown at half-staff.



Staff Sgt. Kerry Michael Kemp, 27, 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.

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, 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.


Associated Press reporters Michael Biesecker in Raleigh, N.C.; Corey Williams in Detroit; Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee contributed to this report.

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