Hundreds of people paid their respects Friday to the seven Marines who lost their lives during a training exercise at Hawthorne this week.
The ceremony, marked by prayers, tears and the sorrowful tune of taps, was held at the Las Vegas Leatherneck Club on the edge of Chinatown.
The participants bid goodbye to the young men who were killed Monday night when a 60 mm mortar round exploded at the Hawthorne Army Depot, about 320 miles northwest of Las Vegas and 135 miles southeast of Reno.
The Marines were from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, with headquarters at Camp Lejeune, N.C. The round exploded in a mortar tube during live-fire training maneuvers, officials said.
“…Take into thine arms the souls of our departed Marine brothers,” said Lisa Michaels, commandant of the Greater Nevada Detachment of Marine Corps League #186, as she spoke to the crowd.
“We are assembled here,” she began, “to pay homage and respect to those who have answered the call. We recognize that all people are God’s children, but that our ways are not always his ways.”
The Marines killed have been identified as: Pfc. Josh M. Martino; Lance Cpl. Josh C. Taylor; Lance Cpl. Roger W. Muchnick Jr.; Cpl. Aaron Ripperda; Lance Cpl. Mason J. Vanderwork; Lance Cpl. William T. Wild IV; and Lance Cpl. David P. Fenn II.
Seven others and a Navy corpsman were wounded and taken to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno. On Friday, the hospital said one patient is in serious condition, four patients are in fair condition and two have been discharged. One patient has died.
Dave Jochman, a chaplain with the same detachment, reminded the Las Vegas crowd of mourners of the history behind the Marines. It’s the smallest branch in the armed forces. The average age of Marines killed in past wars, from World War I to the present, is 19 — the same age of these men.
One of every three names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., was a Marine. The red stripe down the side of a Marine’s blue trousers represents the courage shown by Marines during the Mexican-American War of 1848.
And finally, the chaplain said, many people ask him why it is that Marines historically have been such a tight-knit, well-oiled, fighting group. He always responds with two words: boot camp.
“For those who have been there, you know what I’m talking about, when you first show up and you say to yourself, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ ” Jochman said.
Toward the end of the ceremony, a pair of Marines folded the American flag, then placed it by empty boots and an M-16 training rifle from the Vietnam War era topped by a helmet. That’s become a symbol in countless ceremonies in the last decade in deaths where the bodies of the military personnel could not be present.
In the background, framed photographs were held high by seven Marines, who stood tall, never fidgeting.
“We train hard,” the chaplain said of the Marine Corps. “We train safe as we can. This was a terrible tragedy.”
Contact reporter Tom Ragan at email@example.com or 702-224-5512.