Saturday, January 29, 2005


Recalling young lives

Family and friends pool
their memories of the 27
killed in a copter crash
in Iraq

After Lance Cpl. Brian Hopper was seriously injured for a second time in Iraq, he could have been re-stationed in Germany.

The 21-year-old wouldn't hear of it.

Marines to open memorial for public expressions of sympathy

The Marines will open the main gate of the Kaneohe base tomorrow to community members who want to honor 27 Hawaii-based servicemen who died in a Wednesday helicopter crash in Iraq.

People may visit the Pacific War Memorial, just inside the gate from the H-3 freeway, to leave flowers and messages, pray or express their sympathy and support.

The gate will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The rest of Marine Corps Base Hawaii is closed to the public.

Brig. Gen. George J. Trautman III, base commander, ordered the opening in response to the community outpouring of sympathy and support after the deadly crash. The 31 victims included 26 Marines of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment at Kaneohe and a Navy corpsman based at Pearl Harbor. Four helicopter crewmen from California also were killed.

"We want our military families to know that they are not alone in their grief, that their civilian neighbors are compassionate and concerned for their well-being," said state Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R, Kailua-Kaneohe Bay).

She said she had suggested to the Marine command that they give residents the opportunity to express themselves, as many have done in calls to the base.

"He had already gotten two Purple hearts," Rob Hopper, the Marine's father, said in a telephone interview yesterday from Wynne, Ark. "He had the opportunity to leave, but he talked them into letting him go back with his troops."

Families, friends and communities across the nation continued to mourn the loss yesterday of the 30 Marines and one Navy corpsman who died in Wednesday's helicopter crash in western Iraq. The Marine helicopter's crew of four was based in California; the rest of the fallen were based at Kaneohe Bay.

Survivors recalled childhood stories, last telephone conversations or recent e-mails.

Rob Hopper talked to his son over the phone just before the Marine left Wednesday.

"He didn't tell me they were going on a mission," Hopper said through tears.

In November, the Marine sustained shrapnel wounds during the invasion of Fallujah. Then, on Dec. 23, a grenade exploded 4 feet away from him.

Despite the Marine's two close calls, Brian Hopper told his father not to worry about his safety in Iraq.

"Brian was a very humble person," Rob Hopper said.

For the second injury, Brian Hopper spent a month in a Marine hospital in Iraq. His older brother, also a Marine, was in the same camp, and the two were able to spend hours together every day.

Patrick Hopper, also a lance corporal, volunteered to escort his brother's body back to the mainland from Kuwait, but couldn't make it in time, his father said.

Brian Hopper joined the Marines in September 2002 and was trained as a rifleman. He arrived in the islands in March 2003, where he spent more than a year.

Hopper is survived by his father, brother and younger sister Robbie Kaye.

Other Kaneohe Marines also were identified yesterday, either by the military or family members. Here are short accounts of their lives, pulled together from various media sources.

Regimental Chaplain Cmdr. Arthur Brown spoke yesterday at the Kaneohe Marine Corps base about visiting the families of Marines killed Wednesday in Iraq in a helicopter crash. In the background, a statue depicts the raising of the American flag on the island of Iwo Jima during WWII.

» Lance Cpl. Mourad Ragimov, 20, of San Diego couldn't come to tell his mom he was in Iraq.

For months, she thought he was in Japan.

But he 'fessed up on Christmas Day to what his father and little sister already knew.

"He was rebellious and at the same time, he had a sensitive heart," Ragimov's mother, Dinara, told California's North County Times.

The Marine was 4 years old when he came to the United States with his family, which sought political asylum from Azerbaijan.

His last phone call to his family came on Monday, when he told them he had one final mission to go. He was to leave Iraq in a few days.

"In my ears are his last words to me: 'I love you, Dad,'" said his father, Rufat. "I hear it all the time now."

Ragimov joined the Marines in August 2003. He arrived in the islands in February. He is survived by his parents and a sister.

» Lance Cpl. Allan Klein, 34, of Macomb, Mich., joined the military in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Klein's father said his son held several jobs. But after the attacks, he "felt a calling," Manfred Klein told the Monroe Evening News.

"He was an excellent Marine. And he certainly was a proud one."

Klein enlisted in the Marines in 2001 and was trained as a rifleman. He arrived in Hawaii in June 2002. He is survived by his father; mother Rae Oldaugh of Roseville, Mich.; and a brother.

» Lance Cpl. Michael L. Starr, 21, of Baltimore, was in such a hurry to enlist in the Marines that he skipped his high school graduation ceremony to start basic training.

But after he completed his military contract, he wanted to return home and pursue a career in law enforcement, relatives told a Maryland news station.

Starr joined the Marines in May 2001 and trained to become a rifleman. He was stationed in Hawaii in October 2002.

"He always said to me, 'Until they come knocking at your door, don't worry,'" Starr's mother, Linda, told WBAL-TV 11 in Baltimore. "He was very comforted in the fact that he thought he was protecting his family."

Starr is survived by his parents.

» Staff Sgt. Brian Bland, 26, of Weston, Wyo., joined the Marines to make a living.

He re-enlisted twice and had planned to make the military a career, the Associated Press said. The 1995 graduate of Newcastle High School reported for training in May 1996 and became a mortarman.

He arrived in the islands in November 2003.

"He was full of hopes and goals and dreams," his former teacher, Larry Roetzel, said in a phone interview with the Star-Bulletin.

Roetzel had Bland as a student for three years, and the Marine had returned to visit the teacher several times.

Bland is survived by his wife and mother.

» 1st Lt. Dustin M. Shumney, 30, of Solano, Calif., wanted gummy bears, so his mom sent him a care package chock full of them.

Days after the Marine received it -- calling up his mother to thank her -- Shama Shumney got word of her son's death.

"He's still there for me," she told ABC-7 in Balincia, Calif. "He would say, 'Mom, be strong. I love you. Help my children and my wife. Be there for them.'"

He joined the Marines in June 2001 and arrived in Hawaii three months later.

He is survived by his wife, three young children and mother.

» Cpl. Nathan A. Schubert, of Cherokee, Iowa, died one day before his 23rd birthday.

The Marine enlisted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and was trained as a rifleman.

His sister, Elizabeth Housholder, told an Iowa news station that she had reservations about his decision, and was always worried whether he'd make it back.

"I had concerns, but at the same sense I was proud of him," she told Keloland-TV in Iowa.

Schubert arrived in the islands in May 2002. He is survived by his parents, sister and brother.

» Lance Cpl. Fred L. Maciel, 20, of Spring, Texas, had never been away from his mother before he joined the Marines.

"They were very, very close," Maciel's stepfather, Richard Garza, told the Houston Chronicle.

Maciel and his mother, Patsy, last spoke on Sunday. "She was giggling a lot -- he was probably making her laugh. He always made her laugh," Garza said.

The Marine was also engaged and was going to make wedding plans when he returned from Iraq, Garza said.

Maciel enlisted just months after his high school graduation in 2003.

Survivors include his mother and stepfather.

» 1st Lt. Travis Fuller, 26, of Granville, Mass., was a standout athlete. But friends and relatives also remember the Marine's intelligence and dedication to education.

"He was a good student with outstanding work habits ... both in the classroom and the wrestling mat," James Vincent, the former assistant principal at Fuller's high school, told the Associated Press.

Fuller graduated from Southwick-Tolland Regional High School in 1997 and went on to attend Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Bourne, Mass. He joined the Marines in 2001 and was stationed in Hawaii in July.

He is survived by his parents, David and Joanne Fuller.

» Cpl. Timothy Knight, 22, of Brooklyn, Ohio, got to see his daughter only via teleconference. The 3-month-old was born while he was away in Iraq.

Knight married his high school sweetheart in 2003. He studied law enforcement at Polaris Career Center in Ohio's Middleburg Heights and planned to become a police officer after getting out of the Marines, the Associated Press said.

The flag outside Brooklyn High School, where Knight graduated, was lowered to half-staff yesterday in Knight's honor, and residents put yellow ribbons around trees in the neighborhood, the AP said.

Knight is survived by his wife, daughter and mother.

» Lance Cpl. Darrell J. Schumann, 25, of Hampton, Va., had one more military mission to complete before he was headed home, the Marine told his father in a phone conversation just nine hours before his death.

Schumann was expected to return home in 10 days, his father said. "They were proud of what they had done," Richmon Schumann told the Virginian-Pilot.

Schumann joined the Marines in 2002. He was a machine gunner.

Schumann's father had served in the Air Force for more than 20 years. His mother, Mary, is still on active duty at Langley Air Force Base.

Besides his parents, Schumann is survived by his wife.

» Lance Cpl. Stephen P. Johnson, 24, of Covina, Calif., found himself in the Marines, his sister said.

Johnson attended Yreka High School in Siskiyou County through his senior year, but left early and finished his high school requirements in the Marines, Kari Williams told the AP.

He had been in the Marines for four years, serving in Iraq since the fall. Survivors include his wife, infant son and sister.

» Lance Cpl. Joseph B. Spence, 24, of Santa Cruz, Calif., never got to meet his 4-month-old daughter.

He joined the Marines in 2001 after graduating from Beach High School four years earlier.

The Marine arrived in Hawaii in May 2002, following rifleman training. A year earlier, he had married his high school sweetheart.

Spence and his wife, Elisabeth, became parents in September, soon after he had dispatched to Iraq, Spence's brother, Roger, told the AP.

Spence is also survived by his parents.

» Lance Cpl. Saeed Jafarkhani-Torshizi Jr., 25, of Tarrant, Texas, joined the Marines because he wanted to get experience with combat before pursuing a career as a police officer, his grandmother told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

"I talked to him 10 days ago," said Gladys Travis of Pennsylvania. "He said Iraq is a bad place, but they were all doing their job, protecting each other's back, and would be happy to get back home."

Jafarkhani-Torshizi joined the Marines in August 2003 and arrived in the islands in February.

He is survived by his parents, Rani Travis and Saeed Jafarkhani-Torsh Sr.

Star-Bulletin reporter Mary Vorsino and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment
Marine Corps Base Hawaii

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