The seven Marines who were killed in an Army helicopter crash along the foggy Florida coast Tuesday night showed "tremendous heroism and valor" throughout their military careers, a Marine commander said Friday. Among them was a staff sergeant who had just received the Silver Star four days before his death.
There were 11 servicemen on board the Black Hawk that went down during a training exercise: four soldiers, and the seven special-operations Marines. Two soldiers have been confirmed dead and the two others are presumed dead.
The identities of the Marines, all of whom were from the same team, were made public on Friday.
"These truly are the men who protect our country and protect our way of life," Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman told reporters.
Names of the four soldiers, all of whom were Guardsmen assigned to the 1-244th Assault Helicopter Battalion in Hammond, Louisiana, have not been made public.
These are the fallen Marines' biographies:
Staff Sgt. Marcus Bawol, 26, from Warren, Michigan: A basketball player at Michigan's Olivet College, Bawol enlisted in the Marine Corps after his freshman year. He served in Afghanistan as communications chief from October 2013 to June 2014. His decorations included the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.
Staff Sgt. Trevor Blaylock, 29, from Lake Orion, Michigan: A varsity swimmer throughout high school, Blaylock entered the Marines after a year at community college, where he had a 3.7 GPA. He served as a mechanic at Camp Pendleton, California, in June 2006. He was deployed to Iraq as a mechanic and scout in 2008, and deployed to Afghanistan from November 2013 to June 2014. His decorations included the Navy and Marines Corps Commendation Medal with Valor, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and Combat Action ribbon.
Sgt. Liam Flynn, 33, from Queens, New York: Flynn was born in Reading, England, and moved to Queens, New York, in 2002. Four years later, he enlisted with the Marines. He deployed to Iraq in 2007 and Afghanistan in 2009 and again in 2013. His decorations included three Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medals with Valor, the Bronze Star with Valor and Combat Action Ribbon.
Staff Sgt. Kerry Kemp, 27, from Port Washington, Wisconsin: Kemp was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and moved to Wisconsin in tenth grade. He deployed to Al Asad, Iraq, in 2008 as a machine gunner, and to Afghanistan from November 2013 to June 2014. His awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Valor and Combat Action Ribbon.
Master Sgt. Thomas A. Saunders, 33, from Williamsburg, Virginia: Saunders was born in Bonn, Germany. He enlisted in the Marines in 1999 and served in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. His decorations included the Joint Service Commendation Medal and the Navy Marine Commendation Medal.
Staff Sgt. Andrew C. Seif, 26, from Holland, Michigan: Seif was raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, before his family moved to Michigan when he was in middle school. He enlisted in the Marines in 2006 and served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among his decorations was the Silver Star Medal, the third-highest military commendation for valor, which he was awarded just last week for trying to save a friend while coming under fire in Afghanistan.
Capt. Stanford H. Shaw III, 31, from Basking Ridge, New Jersey: Shaw was captain of the lacrosse team and student government president in high school. He graduated the Naval Academy in 2006 and accepted a commission as a Marine officer. He was deployed twice to Iraq and was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, among other honors.