Ceremony honors Marines killed in Nepal

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SAN DIEGO -- Family members and military colleagues of six U.S. Marines killed in a helicopter crash last month in earthquake-ravaged Nepal gathered Wednesday for a memorial service at Camp Pendleton.

Wednesday afternoon's flight-line ceremony culminated with a 21-gun salute, a playing of taps and a helicopter fly-over.

Loved ones and fellow Marines reflected on the lives lost.

"His departure from our ranks will leave a deep scar… but his influence with everyone he served with will have a deeper more meaningful impact on our lives looking forward." said Lt. Brendon McCluney.  McCluney was with the Marines in Nepal just a week before their chopper crashed.

"Today’s very important to give  both the families and the squadron some closure to honor them to take time out from a busy deployment schedule, just coming back from Nepal to pause, to remember them, to think about like all the things they did. And the bravery they showed in the end there in Nepal."

The UH-1Y Huey attached to Marine Light Helicopter Squadron 469 went down about eight miles north of the town of Charikot on a steep Himalayan mountainside hours after a magnitude-7.3 aftershock to an earlier disastrous temblor struck the region on May 12. The wreckage of the aircraft was found three days later.

Killed in the crash were Capt. Christopher L. Norgren, 31, of Sedgwick, Kansas; Capt. Dustin R. Lukasiewicz, 29, of Harlan, Nebraska; Sgt. Eric M. Seaman, 30, of Riverside; Sgt. Ward M. Johnson IV, 29, of Seminole, Florida; Cpl. Sara A. Medina, 23, of Kane, Illinois; and Lance Cpl. Jacob A. Hug, 22, of Maricopa, Arizona.

"They went out doing what they loved and there’s no better way for us to honor them than to continue to keep doing their work and to take over the watch and keep going.” said Lt. McCluney.

The personnel aboard the Camp Pendleton-based chopper were participating in a disaster-relief mission called “Operation Sahayogi Haat'' when their helicopter was reported missing. They had been diverted from a joint task force exercise in the Philippines to assist with search and rescue in the South Asian country.

Aircraft from the United States, India and Nepal took part in the search for the missing helicopter and Marines.

The cause of the accident remains under investigation, according to USMC officials.