Memorial set for 12 Marines aboard helicopters that crashed


A memorial service for 12 U.S. Marines board two helicopters that crashed off the coast of Hawaii has begun at their home base.

"As we mourn this loss, we are reminded of the sacrifice men and women of our armed forces make each day for the freedom and security of their fellow Americans", the president said in his statement. The service was shown live on the Internet. No bodies were found. The cause is under investigation.

Servicemen draped flight gear on 12 white crosses Friday to commemorate the Marines who died when two helicopters crashed off the coast of Hawaii during a nighttime training mission.

Last year, an Army Black Hawk helicopter crashed off the coast of Florida, killing 11 service members.

Enlarged pictures of the men and crosses lined the tarmac in front of two helicopters. In succession, the honor guard covered each cross with a helmet, a vest and a wreath, then placed a rifle and boots at its base.

Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller in a statement said the 12 Marines embodied courage, determination and focus on success.

Young pilots looked up to Capt. Kevin Roche. "As the squadron and families deal with this loss, I want you to know that help is available as we transition through our sadness and grief".

- Capt. Steven R. Torbert, 29, Florence, Alabama.

- Sgt. Adam C. Schoeller, 25, Gardners, Pennsylvania. Shawn Campbell and Cpl Matthew Drown, are Houston-area natives.

Sgt. Dillon "D-Dog" Semolina was a determined Marine who spent a deployment to Australia sneaking out of the barracks at night to meet a girl he would later marry.

- Sgt. Jeffrey A. Sempler, 22, Woodruff, South Carolina.

Sgt. William J. Turner served as a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crew chief at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

The two CH-53E helicopters belonging to the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing from the Marine Corps Air Station at Kaneohe Bay were on a routine training mission when they were reported to have collided just before midnight on January 14, according to the Coast Guard. "They were in the prime of their life, full of joy and hope - only to be taken from us in an instant". Ty L. Jardas, 21, of Aumsville, Ore.