POSTED: 6:30 a.m. HST, Jan 20, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 6:28 p.m. HST, Jan 20, 2012
A 25-year-old from New Jersey and a 40-year-old from Iowa, both Hawaii-based Marines, were among six killed in a CH-53D helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan Thursday, family confirmed.
Cpl. Kevin Reinhard, a crew chief from Woodbridge, N.J., “had a zeal for life that many people could only aspire to,” his family said in a statement provided to the Newark Star-Ledger.
“If you knew Kevin, you knew he had a great sense of humor. From being an all-around goofball, to the particular way he would read his birthday cards with the family, dying his hair purple, and planning on wearing a kilt when and if his sister got married in the future,” the family said.
Reinhard joined the Marine Corps in 2008 and was with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363, the Lucky Red Lions.
John Riddick, of Mount Pleasant, Iowa, said he was notified early today that his son, 40-year-old Master Sgt. Travis Riddick, died in the crash Thursday in Afghanistan's southern province of Helmand. He says he wasn't told details about the crash, only that his son died.
John Riddick says his son grew up in Centerville and joined the Marines after graduating from Centerville High School in 1990. Travis Riddick was based in Hawaii and had served three tours of duty in Iraq and two in Afghanistan.
John Riddick said this was to be his son's last tour.
The Pentagon waits at least 24 hours after next-of-kin are notified before it releases the names of those killed in combat. Family members often provide the information to news outlets earlier.
The commander of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363, Lt. Col. Mark Revor, confirmed on the unit's Facebook page that all six Marines killed in the helicopter crash were from the Kaneohe-based unit, and that all families had been notified.
Reinhard’s boyhood dream of being a jet pilot was shelved after his more than six-foot height made him too tall, but he loved flying, his family said.
“Descriptions of flying around base in Hawaii, observing the tropical scenery, and whale watching out of the side of his helicopter were all frequent talking points in phone calls home,” the family said in the statement.
The family said Reinhard “only had a few short weeks left to his deployment,” his second in the Marine Corps. It was expected to be his last because he only had a year left on his enlistment.
His family said Reinhard “felt he needed to answer a call to serve his country.”
“For his family and his friends he was always a hero, before he ever put on a uniform for his country,” they said. “The uniform only announced to the rest of the world what a wonderful man, what a wonderful soul he was.”
Reinhard is survived by his mother and father, James and Kathleen Rose, and a sister, Kathleen Marie.
The helicopter, a CH-53D Sea Stallion, crashed Thursday in Afghanistan’s southern province of Helmand. The Marine unit, known as the Lucky Red Lions, deployed in August.
A Pentagon official said there is no indication that the helicopter was hit by enemy fire.
The cause is still being investigated, but a coalition statement said there was no enemy activity in the area at the time of the crash.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef claimed insurgents shot down the helicopter, a Chinook, in Musa Qala district of Helmand province, killing all on board. The Taliban frequently exaggerate the number of people they claim to have killed
The coalition did not disclose the nationalities of those killed and would not release details of the crash until the families of the dead were notified.
It was the deadliest crash in Afghanistan since August, when 30 American troops died after a Chinook helicopter was apparently shot down in Wardak province in the center of the country.
U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa issued a statement saying she is sadden by the news of the death of the six Kaneohe Marines in Afghanistan.
"All who have called Hawaii home are part of our island ohana, and every loss like this touches us deeply. It is a reminder of what we ask of those few proud souls who answer our nation's call. Those we lost displayed great courage and honor in serving our country, and have made the ultimate sacrifice for their commitment. My thoughts are with their families and loved ones, and with all of the brave men and women who are facing the dangers of war today," Hanabusa said.
U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono issued a similar statement.
"The loss of the six U.S. Marines in yesterday's helicopter crash in Afghanistan comes as tragic news for our island community and our nation," Hirono said. "We owe them and all of our brave servicemen and women a debt of gratitude for their dedication to our country."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.