Marine Lt. Gen. John Wissler thanked U.S. and Nepalese search and recovery teams that found the charred wreckage of the Marine UH-1Y Huey helicopter in dense forest at an elevation of more than 11,000 feet and recovered the remains despite mountain storms and temperatures below freezing.
"You never hesitated in the joint effort to bring our brothers home. Everyone united -- the soldiers hiking through hazardous terrain, the pilots flying in uncertain weather conditions and the Nepalese special forces standing watch over our Marines on a mountainside at night," Wissler said.
"We honor our fallen comrades through our unselfish support to each other in this time of grief," said Wissler, commander of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force and of Joint Task Force 505 which arrived in Nepal on April 29 following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that killed more than 8,000.
The six Marines aboard the Huey from Marine Light Attack Helicopter squadron 469 based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., were identified as:
- Capt. Christopher L. Norgren, 31, of Sedgwick, Kans. He was a UH-1Y pilot with HMLA-469, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, Camp Pendleton.
- Capt. Dustin R. Lukasiewicz, 29, of Harlan, Neb. He also was a UH-1Y pilot and was with the same unit as Norgren.
- Sgt. Ward M. Johnson, IV, 29, of Seminole, Fla. He was a UH-1Y helicopter crew chief with HMLA-469.
- Sgt. Eric M. Seaman, 30, of Riverside, Calif. He was a UH-1Y helicopter crew chief with HMLA-469,
- Cpl. Sara A. Medina, 23, of Kane, Ill. She was a combat photographer with Marine Corps Installations Pacific in Okinawa, Japan.
- Lance Cpl. Jacob A. Hug, 22, of Maricopa, Ariz. He was a combat videographer with Marine Corps Installations Pacific, Okinawa, Japan.
The two Nepalese soldiers killed in the crash were identified as Tapendra Rawal and Basanta Titara.
The military received no distress calls from the Huey before it went missing last Tuesday as a second earthquake of 7.3 magnitude hit Nepal but Wissler pledged that "we will determine the cause."
Capt. Lukasiewicz was commissioned in 2008 and previously had deployed to Afghanistan with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. Only days before the crash, Lukasiewicz was featured in a Marine Corps video on the relief efforts.
His awards included an Air Medal with Strike/Flight Numeral 5, a Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, a Bronze Star and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, according to the Marine Corps Times.
Capt. Norgren was commissioned in 2009 and had also deployed to Afghanistan. His awards included a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, a Combat Action Ribbon and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with bronze star in lieu of a second award.
Sgt. Johnson enlisted in the Marines in 2009 and had deployed to Afghanistan with the 31st MEU. His awards included the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Air Medal with Strike/Flight Numeral 5, the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal.
Sgt. Seaman also joined the Marines in 2009 and deployed to Afghanistan with the 31st MEU. His awards included the Air Medal with Strike/Flight Numeral 5, the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal with bronze star with a second award and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal.
Cpl. Medina, who was engaged to be married this summer, enlisted in the Marines in 2010. She had previously deployed to South Korea, the Philippines, Japan, and Australia. Her awards included the the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal and the Korean Defense Service Medal.
Lance Cpl. Hug joined the Marines in 2012 and had previously deployed to South Korea, Thailand, Australia, Japan, and Guam. His awards included the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and a Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org