The names of seven Marines who lost their lives were released Wednesday by Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. The military men, ranging in age from 19 to 26, were killed Monday when a mortar detonated during live-fire training at an Army munitions depot in western Nevada.
"We send our prayers and condolences to the families of the Marines and sailors who have been killed and injured in this tragic accident," NBC News quoted Brig. Gen. Jim Lukeman. "Our first priority is to provide them with the support they need during this very difficult time, and we're doing that right now."
All of the men were a part of the 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, NBC said.
Nineteen-year-old Pfc. Josh Martino, from Clearfield, Pa., was killed when a 60-millimeter mortar shell exploded in a tube when Marines were planning to fire it. He had joined the Marine Corps in July 2012, but dreamed about it most of his life, according to his mother, Karen Perry, who spoke to the Associated Press.
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"Since he was probably 8 years old he wanted to be a Marine," his mother said. "That's all he wanted to do."
Even at just 20 years old, Lance Cpl. David P. Fenn II from Polk City, Fla., had been a Marine for three years. Lance Cpl. Roger W. Muchnick Jr., 23, of Fairfield, Conn., had just finished a tour in Afghanistan and thought about taking college classes again, his grandfather said to the AP.
"He was a fabulous kid. Just fabulous," his grandfather, Jerome Muchnick, said. "He was at the top of his game when this happened. ... You can't imagine losing a very handsome, 23-year-old grandson who was vital and loving."
According to the AP, 21-year-old Lance Cpl. Joshua C. Taylor, from Marietta, Ohio, wanted to marry his fiancé in May.
Military officials are still not sure what caused the explosion. For now. there is a blanket suspension of 60mm mortars and tubes until the accident has been thoroughly reviewed. In addition to the seven lives lost in the blast, eight men were injured.
The incident happened a little before 10 p.m. Monday at Hawthorne Army Depot in California.
“The Marines and Sailors of 1/9 performed superbly throughout the training at both locations,” said Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Andrew J. McNulty. “We expected to complete the exercise upon the conclusion of the night live fire training, which we were in the process of executing on that fateful evening.”
Twenty-one year old Lance Cpl. Mason J. Vanderwork from Hickory, N.C., served overseas twice. He had only been married to his 19-year-old wife, Taylor, for less than a year, she told the Charlotte Observer . They planned on having a family.
“I’ve lost my husband and part of my military family and I just turned 19 years old," she told the newspaper. “I really want to be dreaming.”
Lance Cpl. William T. Wild IV became a Marine after he graduated from high school. The 21-year-old of Anne Arundel, Md., served twice in Afghanistan and once to Kuwait, according to what his mother told the AP.
Cpl. Aaron J. Ripperda tried his hand at culinary school before the 26-year-old of Madison, Ill., joined the service, his father, Kent Ripperda said to the AP.
"He told us he always felt like he had a calling to join the Marines," Ripper said. "I guess maybe it was a prestige thing."
But after the service his son wanted to go back to school and "get on with his life."