Photo Information

Lance Cpl. Mark Meryhew Jr., bugler, plays Taps during the memorial service held at the station chapel here Wednesday to honor the Search and Rescue Marines and sailor lost in Thursday?s tragedy. Approximately 700 people attended the service in support of the families and fellow service members.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Gregory Aalto

MCAS Yuma honors fallen SAR Marines, sailor

23 Aug 2007 | Cpl. Terika S. King

“So others may live.”

That is the Search and Rescue motto and words friends and colleagues said the four service members lost in Thursday’s crash lived by.

The three Marines and sailor, who sustained fatal injuries when the HH-1N Search and Rescue helicopter from Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron crashed approximately 20 miles north of Yuma near the Colorado River during a routine training mission Thursday, were recognized for their sacrifice.

During a memorial service Wednesday at the station chapel, families, friends and colleagues remembered Maj. Cesar Y. Freitas, 35, H&HS Search and Rescue pilot; Capt. Bradley E. Walters, 33, H&HS Search and Rescue pilot; Sgt. Charles L. Osgood, 27, H&HS Search and Rescue crew chief; and Petty Officer 2nd Class Brendon W. Sandburg, 25, Branch Medical Clinic Navy Hospital Corpsman.

The primary function of H&HS Search and Rescue is supporting the squadrons here by quickly responding to any military accidents in the immediate area of the air station and training ranges, but as station Marines and Yuma citizens know, their job entailed much more.

“A majority of their missions were in support of the local community,” said Col. Ben D. Hancock, station commanding officer, in the opening moments of the ceremony.

From responding to climbing, hiking, and ATV accidents out on the dunes, to car crashes and even illegal aliens who need rescuing, SAR responds to an array of emergency situations.

“That orange and white helicopter is a symbol of hope for everybody,” continued Hancock as he stood at the podium behind a traditional display of tribute; steel-toed boots placed in front of four wooden crosses, adorned with flight vests, flight helmets and dog tags.

While many people may say that their jobs are only a small portion of their lives, there seemed to be a general consensus among those who spoke of their fallen comrades, that each of these Marines and sailor loved their jobs and always had that love of flying and saving lives in the back of their minds.

After the opening words of the memorial, grief and sorrow was apparent of the faces of all in attendance as each reflected on their own memories of the fallen heroes.

“He took a great deal of joy in flying,” said Capt. Gordon Harwell, H&HS Search and Rescue pilot, of Frietas, his fellow Marine and friend. “He never tired of flying.”

“He was the epitome of a corpsman,” said Petty Office 2nd Class Christian Flohr, Branch Medical Clinic hospital corpsman, his voice filled with emotion as he said a few words on Sandburg whom he had known for most of his own career in the Navy. “He loved what he did and he loved his Marines.”

Besides sharing a passion for their occupations, each Marine and sailor also shared a strong bond with their families and friends and brought joy to everyone who knew them.

“I know Charlie is in a better place now. Charlie will be missed but never forgotten,” said Ryan Pecknold, friend of Sgt. Osgood, as he amusingly described the optimistic smile, offset ears and dirty flight suit, full of grease and oil from working on the aircraft, that had become the image that came to mind when he thought of his friend.

“Brad made us all feel as if we were special,” said Capt. Daniel Groeling, a Marine of SAR. He affected me in ways he probably never knew. He was the operations officer and I was his assistant. I’m proud to say everything I know about SAR is because of him. That man flew the aircraft like it was an extension of his own body. The great things he accomplished while he was here will never be forgotten.”

As the memorial service concluded, the approximately 700 people in attendance moved towards the parade deck for a four-Harrier ceremonial flyover, the words of Marine Corps Installations West Commanding General Maj. Gen. Michael R. Lehnert seemed to fit the occasion perfectly.

“They made this world better because they walked upon this land and flew above this earth.”

For anyone interested in sending donations to the families, the following donation sites have been established:

Donations for Maj. Cesar Freitas

Chase Bank

Attn: Cesar Freitas Memorial Fund

170 West 16th Street

Yuma, AZ 85364

Donations for Capt. Bradley Walters

AA Credit Union

Attn: Catherine Walters Fund

PO Box 155489

Fort Worth, TX 76155

Donations for Sgt. Charles Osgood

Navy Federal Credit Union

Attn: Sergeant Charles L. Osgood Memorial Fund

PO Box 3100 Merrifield, VA 22119-3100

Donations for HM2 Brendon Sandburg

Navy Federal Credit Union

Attn: Sandburg Family Memorial Fund

PO Box 3100 Merrifield, VA 22119-3100

Headquarters Marine Corps