On Saturday January 23rd 2016 I was part of a Memorial Service/Continued search for our 12 Marines who were lost at sea following the collision of the two Helo’s (helicopters) carrying them on a training mission off the north shore of O’ahu, Hawaii. First off as a Marine veteran I know we leave no fellow Marine behind, no matter what we will bring our brothers and sisters home. Being able to help out our Marines is always an honor. The morning of the 23rd, I arrived too early to work. I remember feeling hope and that is the hope to find my fellow Marines. These are men who signed up to protect our country and way of life, men who risked it all every day to make sure that we have the freedoms so many of us take for granted.
On that day, we got the truck loaded with supplies and headed to the location of the base camp, Keana Point on the north shore. When we got to the “Base Camp” area there were already some volunteers waiting. To see this many people this early in the morning to go look for our lost Marines was a humbling experience. As we set up our pop-up tent and linked up with the other volunteer organizations, more and more people started to show up. I remember thinking to myself how impressed I was that “Makani got all this set up in two days”. We established the shuttle service and started to set up for the prayer ceremony, which was a local Hawaiian Kumu (priest) doing the traditional Hawaiian ceremony called a Ha’ule Lani. This ceremony provided means of closure for many, as our search was being done after the official search had been called off and was now a recovery operation. The ceremony itself was very powerful. Makani gave an emotional speech and then did final roll call for our 12 Marines. I don’t think there was a dry eye in sight. To see the outpouring of love and support for our Marines from our local community was awe-inspiring.
After the Ceremony everyone went to his or her respective search areas. I’ll never forget looking up toward the point and seeing so many people looking for debris, wreckage, anything at all and even god forbid our Marines. It wasn’t long until calls and texts started coming in. Questions like “is this part of the wreckage?” or “what about this?” were coming into base camp at about 1-5 texts every ½ hour or so. Then came a call about a parachute that had been found a little west of Mokuleia Beach Park. Makani and I immediately jumped into the truck and headed down to the area to check it out. Upon our arrival we found a group of volunteers and they pointed out something in the water. Makani and I were watermen and experienced (it was winter and the waves and current can be strong) and we jumped in without hesitation. Makani was smart enough to borrow a mask from some beach goers; once we got to the item we able to confirm it was a parachute and decided to pull it out.
After going back to shore and retrieving my dive gear I was headed back out. However, unbeknownst to me at the time the Marines were alerted to our find, and when I got back with my dive gear in hand two Marines were present to help. A young Private first class and myself swam out to the chute and were able to cut it to get it off the reef and back on shore. It was then put in the Marines’ truck to be taken to Schofield to be checked out. After getting the chute out the water we returned to base camp. When we got back to base camp we had a small potluck and started to breakdown the camp. As we started our long drive home, both Makani and I sat in silence and let the whole day and the community’s support sink in. The amount of local support was mind-blowing and the support from all over the country was amazing. The Family that had discovered the chute had flown in from Kansas to help with the search, as the dad was a Marine veteran.
It was a humbling day, from all the organizing done by Makani, to the volunteers, both the people who just heard about it thru Facebook and the volunteer originations such as Team Rubicon and Red White & Blue. This goes to show how much support the local community and this country has for our armed forces, these brave men and women who put them selves at risk everyday to protect our freedoms and way of life that many take for granted.
The selfless sacrifice of these 12 Marines is a solemn reminder of the price of Freedom.
Maj. Shawn M. Campbell, 41, College Station, Texas.
Capt. Brian T. Kennedy, 31, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Capt. Kevin T. Roche, 30, St. Louis, Missouri.
Capt. Steven R. Torbert, 29, Florence, Alabama.
Sgt. Dillon J. Semolina, 24,Chaska, Minnesota.
Sgt. Adam C. Schoeller, 25, Gardners, Pennsylvania.
Sgt. Jeffrey A. Sempler, 22, Woodruff, South Carolina.
Sgt. William J. Turner, 25, Florala, Alabama.
Cpl. Matthew R. Drown, 23, Spring, Texas.
Cpl. Thomas J. Jardas, 22, Fort Myers, Florida.
Cpl. Christopher J. Orlando, 23, Hingham, Massachusetts.
Lance Cpl. Ty L. Hart, 21, Aumsville, Oregon.
“FAIR WINDS AND FOLLOWING SEAS”
Jack Wells is a guide at Keawe Adventures. Between 2005-2009 he served in the Marine Infantry and is an Iraq veteran.