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15 Marines, 1 sailor identified in Mississippi plane crash

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The men were on their way Monday to Yuma, Ariz., for training.
The Marine Corps released the names Friday of the 15 Marines and a Navy sailor killed in a military plane crash Monday in the Mississippi Delta region.
The final set of remains was recovered Thursday from a soybean field in Leflore County where the Marine Corps KC-130 transport plane went down, killing all aboard, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said.
Six of the Marines and the sailor were from an elite Marine Raider battalion at Camp Lejeune, N. C.. Nine were based out of Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, N.Y., home of a Marine Aerial Refueling and Transport Squadron.
In March 2015, seven members of the same North Carolina-based command were killed in a helicopter crash off Florida, which Col. Stephen Grass, Marine Special Operations Command deputy commander said Friday was just a coincidence.
Most of the remains have been flown to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where Air Force mortuary personnel will release the bodies to their families.
► Wednesday: Eyewitnesses describe horrifying sight of Marine plane crashing ► Tuesday: 15 Marines, 1 Navy corpsman killed in military plane crash ► Tuesday: Marine Corps plane crash kills 16, highlights training hazards
The plane was scheduled to take the Camp Lejeune troops to Yuma, Ariz., for training. The military, along with the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, is conducting an investigation into the cause of the crash.
Cpl. Dan Baldassare, 20, had wanted to be a Marine since he was in middle school, his friend Dan McGowan told WPIX-TV, New York.
“He actually would bring military gloves to football practice and play with them, ” said McGowan, who drove his friend to practice in high school. “He was a patriot and all he wanted to do was serve our country. Everyone had a lot of respect for Dan.”
After the crewmaster of the KC-130 died in the Mississippi crash, a marine sergeant guarded the home where Baldassare grew up in suburban Colts Neck, N. J.
That sergeant told the Asbury Park Press that Baldassare’s family wanted privacy and was declining comment.
“We’ re so sorry and our heart is just breaking, just breaking for them, ” neighbor Rosalind Innucci, said of Baldassare’s parents and sister. Innucci has lived on street for 14 years. “I never got the chance to thank him for his service.”
Baldassare, who joined the Marines in 2009, was stationed at Stewart.
Staff Sgt. Robert Cox, 28, was a critical skills operator from Ventura County, Calif., stationed at Camp Lejeune, N. C., the Marine Corps said in a news release Friday.
Cox joined the Marines in 2007 and had served four tours of duty overseas.
Aaron Cortez of Port Hueneme, Calif., described Cox as the first to volunteer and someone who would help out with whatever was needed, the Ventura County (Calif.) Star reported.
“We would always go to him, ” said Cortez who served with Cox for three years starting in 2008 and has stayed friends on Facebook. “He always had a book and was reading something. He was a really good guy, one of the best Marines I ever knew.”
Capt. Sean Elliott, 30, one of the plane’s pilots, had a longtime love affair with the C-130. His father, John Elliott, told San Diego’s Union-Tribune that his son used to take a model C-130 loaded with toy soldiers to bed when he was 4 years old.
“He slept with it like you would a teddy bear, ” John Elliott said. “A big plane, in the bed. A silly plastic thing, with the toy soldiers inside. It went to bed with him every night for quite a long time.”
His mother, Cynthia Elliott, said her son was “enamored” with aircraft and the military at least since attending a childhood air show.
A prep standout in tennis, the 6-foot 2-inch Elliott was renowned for a booming serve. His younger brother Erik went pro, but Sean Elliott went to officers’ school, graduating from the University of California, Davis.
“He was always looking out for others, starting with me but then continuing to his fraternity brothers and his Marines, ” Erik Elliott said.
Stationed at Stewart, Elliott got his Marine Corps call sign “Puffin” because he refused to hunt the nesting and defenseless birds during a stopover in Iceland, his father said.
► Tuesday: ‘It’s just horrible:’ Community reacts to crash of N.Y.-based plane ► Monday: Military plane crash in Mississippi leaves at least 16 dead
Maj. Caine Goyette of Waterford, N.Y., was the KC-130 aircraft pilot during Monday’s crash, the Marines said in a news release Friday.
He graduated from Waterford-Halfmoon High School in Waterford in 1994 and joined the Marines later that year. He received degrees from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Newburgh, N.Y., in 2001, according to his LinkedIn profile.
In September 2005, he was deployed for Operation Enduring Freedom and was the recipient of many awards and decorations including the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal; the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal; the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
He was promoted to major in November 2012.
The family of Gunnery Sgt. Mark Hopkins, 34, of New Windsor, N.Y., remembers him as a “creative, compassionate man who exuded happiness and brightened every room he walked into.”
Hopkins, a navigator stationed at Stewart, joined the Marines in 2001, shortly after graduating from Great Bridge High School in Chesapeake, Va. Nicknamed “Hoppy, ” his deployments included a tour in Okinawa from 2004 to 2006.
Hopkins leaves behind his wife, Patricia and three children, 2-year-old Wyatt, 1-year-old Abby and infant Lewis, according to a family statement released through Hopkins’ church near the air base in New York.
“He was an avid traveler and especially enjoyed spur-of-the-moment road trips. There was never a dull moment with him, ” the statement said. “He was a deeply spiritual man who shared his faith with others and lived his life to its fullest.”
Hopkins was born in Ypsilanti, Mich., and his mother and brother live in nearby Belleville. A sister lives in Middleton, Wis., while a brother lives in Louisville, Ky.
Sgt. Chad Jenson, 25, of Redondo Beach, Calif., married eight months ago.
In 2009, he led his Mira Costa High School football team to a state championship, the (Torrance, Calif.) Daily Breeze reported.
“It’s unfair — someone so genuine, so selfless. Someone like that didn’ t deserve this, ” friend and former teammate Jake Jelmini told the paper. “But he was doing something he loved. He was doing something that he stood behind 115%.”
Survivors include his wife, Jessica, and a stepson.
Jenson signed up for the Marines in 2010, telling friends that he wanted to serve his country. By 2013, Jenson applied for Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, a team similar to the Navy SEALs and was serving in the elite Raider Battalion at Lejeune at the time of his death.
Among his medals were commendations from both the Navy and Marines.
“He’s exactly the kind of person you would want representing the United States in the position that he’s in, ” said Chuck Arrasmith, Jenson’s offensive line coach at Mira Costa High. “I can’ t even imagine a group of people like him being together, how powerful they’ d be. They would not see defeat.”
Gunnery Sgt. Brendan Johnson, 46, of Fishkill, N.Y., told his father he had the best job in the Marine Corps.
“He loved the outdoors and he loved flying with the Marine Corps, ” Kevin Johnson of Colchester, Vt., told the Burlington (Vt.) Free Press . “He told me, ‘Dad, I’ve got the best job in the Corps.’ “
His son was based at Stewart, traveling back and forth across the Atlantic and Pacific and touring many countries.
Brendan Johnson joined the Marines after graduating from Johnson State College in Vermont. A fine arts major, Johnson once surprised the family with portraits he painted based on old pictures of his grandfather and father-in-law when they graduated from Navy boot camp.
The elder Johnson said his son, an active reservist who was taking on more administrative work, was looking to retire next year. Plans included possibly returning to school for a master’s degree and then moving from Stewart at Newburgh, N.Y., to Montana, home to his wife Anna.
He said his son loved the outdoors and was considering a job as a park ranger or a fish and game warden.
“He was thinking of looking into that, but he said, ‘You know, I’ ve got some time,’ ” Johnson said.
Sgt. Julian Kevianne, 31, joined the Marines in 2009 because he wanted to protect and defend the country, his brother told the Detroit Free Press.
“The Marines knocked on my mother’s door at 2 this morning, ” Carlo Kevianne said late Tuesday. “They said his plane went down, and they weren’ t able to find him.”
A new concrete walkway was poured Tuesday at Carlo Kevianne’s home. In it, Julian’s mother, Tina Albo, carved a tribute to her late son: “Peace of my heart is in heaven.”
Carlo Kevianne said his family is stunned and heartbroken.
“I’m so sorry. We’re praying for you, ” said a neighbor who walked up to him and gave him a hug.
Julian Kevianne, an active reservist and flight engineer, was based at Stewart and lived with his wife Sherry Jennings-Kevianne in New Windsor, N.Y.
Staff Sgt. William Joseph Kundrat, 33, grew up in Frederick, Md., where the Marine’s parents, Joseph and Lynda, still live.
His mother confirmed her son’s death in a telephone interview Wednesday with The Frederick News-Post .
“Every breath of air you take, all the things you’ re able to do, you can do those things because of people like my son, ” she told the newspaper.

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