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Seven fallen MARSOC raiders honored at Camp Lejeune ceremony

A ceremony honoring the seven MARSOC raiders killed in a KC-130 plane crash in July was held Thursday, Aug. 31, at Camp Lejeune. (Photo courtesy of MARSOC)

CAMP LEJEUNE, Onslow County - Marines, Sailors and family members gathered to remember and celebrate the lives of six critical skills operators and one Navy special amphibious reconnaissance corpsman from U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command during a celebration of life ceremony at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, on Thursday.

The seven Raiders, from 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, and nine Marine reservists from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 452, were killed July 10 when their KC-130T Hercules transport aircraft crashed in Leflore County, Miss. The aircraft was delivering the seven MARSOC Raiders to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., for pre-deployment training.

The Marines and Sailors of 2nd MRB paid tribute to their fallen brothers in a solemn ceremony with fond memories shared for each of the men. The six Marines and Sailor were: Staff Sgt. Robert Cox, 28, from Hampstead, N.C., Staff Sgt. William Kundrat, 33, from Frederick, Md., Sgt. Chad Jenson, 25, from Redondo Beach, Calif., Sgt. Dietrich Schmieman, 26, from Richland, Wash., Sgt. Joseph Murray, 26, from Jacksonville, Fla., Sgt. Talon Leach, 27, from Fulton, Mo., and Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Lohrey, 30, from Middletown, Ind.

"Anytime you lose anyone, whether it's one person or whether it's 16, it's not easy," said 1st Sgt. Jordan L. Freeland, a 2nd MRB company first sergeant. "Any loss that we have is tough on everybody, not only the families but the unit itself and the guys they worked alongside on a day-to-day basis."

The service members have already been laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery and others closer to their hometowns. The celebration of life however, serves as a way for friends, family and fellow service members to remember the great things of each of their lives. One service member spoke on behalf of each of the fallen, recalling humorous memories, their many honorable qualities, and what set each man apart from others, commemorating the lives they lived.

MARSOC Commander, Maj. Gen. Carl E. Mundy III, offered his condolences to the families and his thoughts on honoring them and their sacrifices in the years ahead.

"I have witnessed some tremendous examples of resilience and strength because each of you modeled it with grace and dignity in the wake of this tragedy," said Mundy, as he addressed the families. "Their lives were sadly cut short, and there's nothing we can do about that, except to let their lives and the ways they lived them serve as an inspiration for all of us - to live as they did. They lived life full bore, with a sense of joy and meaning that only derives from service and sacrifice."

He continued to say the Marines and Sailor lived intentionally and fully, not safely or by avoiding hardships.

"Their lives were spent fulfilling a distinguished purpose, each a life well-lived," he said.

Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, Marine Gen. Glenn M. Walters, the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, Brig. Gen. Bradley S. James, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing commander, and Marine Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman, deputy commander, USSOCOM, met with the families and fellow teammates prior to the ceremony to express their sympathies.

"The Marines are going to respond how their leadership responds," said Freeland. "The biggest thing that enables us to push forward is that leadership aspect - to understand that we just went through a traumatic piece but at the same time there is still work ahead of us."

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