LEFLORE COUNTY, Miss. — Families are continuing to identify their loved ones who were tragically killed when a Marine KC-130 air tanker crashed into a soybean field in rural Mississippi.
The military has not officially identified the 15 Marines and one sailor, saying they wanted to show respect to the victims and their families.
Some of the families who have been notified have started coming forward.
Staff Sgt. William Joseph Kundrat
The 33 year old grew up in Frederick, Maryland, 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. “I’ll never forget that.”
Kundrat graduated in 2002 from Gov. Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick, where he played football and lacrosse. He also was an Eagle Scout.
After graduation, he joined the Marines. In 2004, Kundrat married classmate Ashley Cregger, according to the paper. It said they lived in Holly Ridge, North Carolina, and had two children together.
Kundrat served in Iraq, his mother said, later joining the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command 2nd Marine Raider battalion stationed at Camp Lejeune. Said his mother: “He was a great Marine.”
Gunnery Sgt. Brendan Johnson
Gunnery Sgt. Brendan Johnson, 46, told his father he had the best job in the Marine Corps.
Kevin Johnson of Colchester, Vermont, recalled his son said, “I get to fly everywhere.” 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, 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 Newburgh New York, to Montana, home to his wife Anna. He said Brendan 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. “We’ll miss him.”
Sgt. Julian Kevianne
Kevianne 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. Julian’s mother, Tina Albo, carved a tribute to her late son: “Peace of my heart is in heaven.”
John Allen, a cousin of Kevianne, told The Detroit News that Kevianne talked about joining the military when he was younger. Allen said Kevianne could be quiet with people he didn’t know, “but once he was comfortable with you, he was a loud blast of fun.”
“We don’t have any words right now. We’re hurting,” sister Tania Kevianne, 27, told The New York Daily News. “He was the best man.”
Kevianne, a flight engineer, was based at Stewart and lived with his wife Sherry Jennings-Kevianne in New Windsor, New York.
Lennon, 26, grew up in Pomona, New York, playing football and tennis for Ramapo High School in Rockland County before graduating in 2008.
A man answering the phone at the family’s home in Pomona confirmed the death to The Journal News, but said the family was grieving and declined to comment.
Lennon’s sister, Kelly Lennon, posted a remembrance on Facebook, saying, “You may have been the youngest, but we always looked up to you. Our hero, Owen Lennon. (broken heart) sending love to the other USMC families that lost loved ones last night.”
Lennon was stationed at Stewart.
Murray’s family recalls him as a ukulele player, former surfer kid and deeply religious family man who excelled in the Marine Corps.
Terry Murray told reporters Wednesday the 26-year-old special operations Marine had been a surfer at Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville, Florida, who surprised his military veteran parents by joining the Marines.
The father said his son was at the center of family life and his Marine units, sharing his Christian faith by serving others and his country. Terry Murray said one Marine told him Joseph hummed praise songs constantly on patrol.
“When Joseph stopped singing praises, they took their safeties off their weapons, because they immediately thought something was up,” Terry Murray said.
Murray leaves a widow, Gayle, and four children — a 5-year-old, a 3-year-old, and twin 1-year-olds.
“He loved to play his guitar and ukulele for us,” Gayle Murray said in a statement. “What he wanted most in the world besides our happiness was to destroy evil on this earth.”
Murray was stationed at Camp Lejeune.
Baldassare, 20, had wanted to be a Marine since he was in middle school, his friend Dan McGowan told WPIX-TV.
“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.”
On Wednesday, 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, New Jersey.
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.
Baldassare was stationed at Stewart.
Staff Sgt. Joshua Snowden
Snowden, a flight engineer on the transport plane, grew up in the Dallas area and graduated from Highland Park High School in 2004, having already signed up for the Marines, The Dallas Morning News reports.
Sara Quarterman, Snowden’s sister, declined comment Wednesday to The Associated Press, saying “now is not a good time.” She said family members would release a statement later.
On Facebook, Quarterman wrote Tuesday that her 31-year-old brother “loved God, his family and friends, and his country. And he died serving his country and God.”
Snowden himself often displayed his Texas roots and love of the Dallas Cowboys on Facebook, even while stationed at Stewart.
“I can tell you that Josh loved his family and friends, God, his country, and country-western music and dancing,” Snowden’s aunt, Linda Hughes, told the Times Herald-Record of Middletown, New York. “He was one of the warmest, kindest, more patriotic people I’ve ever known.”
The other service members killed in the crash have not been identified at this time.
As all of the families mourn, investigators are tasked with finding out what led up to the incident.
Monday evening, authorities said the military transport plane exploded in the air, plunging 20,000 feet into a soybean field in Leflore County.
“They were on a training flight from Cherry Point, North Carolina to El Centro, California. They were on a mission to transport personnel and equipment,” said Major Andrew Aranda, public affairs officer for the Marines.
While the FBI has joined the investigation, officials do not think foul play was involved.