CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Flowers have been placed in remembrance of the 26 Kaneohe Marines and one Pearl Harbor sailor killed Wednesday in Iraq beside a statue on the Kaneohe Marine Corps base that depicts the raising of the American flag on the island of Iwo Jima during World War II.
Wives cope with loss
The Navy medic and two Marines killed in Wednesday's helicopter crash in Iraq became fathers during their deployment and never had the chance to hold their babies.
Navy Cmdr. Arthur M. Brown, a chaplain for the Marine Corps for 16 years and a veteran of the first Gulf War, said that although 10 of the 27 Hawaii-based servicemen killed were married, only the wives of Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class John D. House of Ventura, Calif.; Marine Lance Cpl. Darrell J. Schumann of Hampton, Va.; Lance Cpl. Joseph B. Spence of Scotts Valley, Calif.; and Cpl. Timothy A. Knight of Brooklyn, Ohio, live in Hawaii, Brown said.
Three were new fathers. Family members said Spence and his wife, Elisabeth, became parents to a girl born in September; Knight and his wife, Gina, had a daughter six months ago; and House's wife, Melanie, gave birth to their son on Christmas Eve.
The four women are being supported by a team of chaplains, grief counselors, mental health experts and social workers, Brown said.
"They are doing as well as can be expected. Everyone is coping under the circumstances," Brown said of the close-knit community at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay, where the regiment is based.
Melanie House has declined interviews through friends and family at her Navy housing near the Pearl Harbor base.
The other two mothers who live on base could not be reached for comment.
Brown said a memorial for House is expected to be held at the Pearl Harbor chapel Thursday.
At a news conference, Brown said yesterday that he and Col. Jeff Patterson, the commander of the 3rd Marine Regiment, visited Thursday with the wives of four soldiers.
Brown said the four women plan to go to the mainland to bury their husbands. A memorial service will be held in Hawaii later, perhaps the first week of March, he said.
Brown and Patterson held a "town meeting" Thursday night for about 200 family members with loved ones serving in the 1st Battalion, 3rd Regiment. They answered questions and made counseling available.
"The questions asked were mostly about when they were coming home," Brown said.
Brown, a veteran of Desert Storm and the father of three children, said that although he has dealt with death many times, it is still hard to put on a dress uniform and tell a family.
Brown said the families "feel a sense of things being out of control."
"We don't have an agenda (when we tell a family)," he said. "We follow them. They take you where they feel comfortable going. That helps put a sense of control back in their lives. You have to respect that."
He added: "There's denial, shock and anger. It's just the human range of emotion. That's where they are and that's sacred space."
Star-Bulletin reporter Sally Apgar and the Associated Press contributed to this report.