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11 Soldiers Killed in Florida Black Hawk Crash Identified

All 11 soldiers who died in a Black Hawk helicopter that crashed in the Santa Rosa Sound along the foggy Florida coast during a routine nighttime training exercise have been identified.

The four crew members and seven Marines onboard the helicopter reportedly died on March 10 when the aircraft crashed into an estimated 25 feet of water in the channel of the sound.

During a press conference on Monday, the Louisiana National Guard identified the pilots and crew of the helicopter — three Guardsmen from Louisiana and one from Virginia.

Among the crew members from Louisiana were the two decorated veteran pilots — Chief Warrant Officer George Wayne Griffin Jr. of Delhi, 37, and Chief Warrant Officer George David Strother of Alexandria, 44.

Staff Sgt. Lance Bergeron, 40, of Thibodaux and Staff Sgt. Thomas Florich, of Fairfax, Virginia were also killed.

The seven Marines who were killed in the crash were identified on March 13.

The Marines were identified as: Staff Sgt. Marcus Bawol, 26, from Warren, Michigan; Staff Sgt. Trevor Blaylock, 29, from Lake Orion, Michigan; Sgt. Liam Flynn, 33, from Queens, New York; Staff Sgt. Kerry Kemp, 27, from Port Washington, Wisconsin; Master Sgt. Thomas A. Saunders, 33, from Williamsburg, Virginia; Staff Sgt. Andrew C. Seif, 26, from Holland, Michigan; and Capt. Stanford H. Shaw III, 31, from Basking Ridge, New Jersey.

Staff Sgt. Seif had just received been awarded the Silver Star, one of the military’s highest honors for heroism, four days prior do his death.

He was honored for his efforts to save a mortally wounded friend under heavy gunfire in Afghanistan, reports CBS News, noting that all seven Marines had done tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, or both.

They were from the special operations regiment stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

The four Guardsmen were assigned to the 1-244th Assault Helicopter Battalion in Hammond, Louisiana. They each did two tours in Iraq and played role in humanitarian efforts after Gulf Coast hurricanes and the 2010 BP oil spill off Louisiana.

The U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center, based in Fort Rucker, Alabama, is investigating the crash.

On March 14, the Air Force announced that the largest sections of the Black Hawk had been retrieved from the Santa Rosa Sound. The pieces were to be taken to the Hurlburt Air Force field in Florida.

“These truly are the men who protect our country and protect our way of life,” Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, commander of Marine Corps special operations force, told reporters on March 13 when the identity of the seven Marines was made public, reports NBC News.

They showed “tremendous heroism and valor” throughout their military careers, he added.

Gen. Osterman also said that  the soldiers “were practicing rappelling down ropes into the water and heading for land, but had decided to abort the mission as too risky,” reports The Associated Press.

According to Maj. Gen. Glenn H. Curtis, the adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard who identified the Guardsmen, military burials with full honors are being planned for the victims.

All across Louisiana, flags are flying at half-staff until sunset March 20 to honor the 11 soldiers who died in the crash.

Follow Edwin Mora on Twitter: @EdwinMora83 

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