As a banner on a veteran’s golf cart in last year’s Fiesta Day Parade clearly proclaimed, Memorial Day weekend is a time to remember that “All gave some, some gave all.”
Residents got a new reminder of that on Monday afternoon when two fighter jets flew over Canyon Lake and Murrieta in honor of U.S. Marine Sgt. Eric Seaman, who lost his life on a humanitarian mission in Nepal on May 12.
Sgt. Seaman, whose wife’s parents live in Canyon Lake, was one of six U.S. Marines and two Nepalese soldiers who died when their Camp Pendleton-based UH-1Y helicopter crashed in mountainous terrain after dropping off food in remote villages decimated by recent earthquakes.
It should be noted that the parents have not sought publicity nor spoken with The Friday Flyer about their son-in-law’s death; however, in a teary phone interview with CNN, Eric’s wife, Samantha, talked about her husband’s love for America and his desire to help the people of Nepal.
“That’s exactly why he joined the military – he wanted to make a difference in the world and I absolutely know that he did,” she said. “He’s made this whole country proud, and I’m so proud of him, and I love him very, very, very much.”
News reports earlier this week said that radio chatter seemed to indicate the helicopter was having a fuel problem before it went down, though the cause of the crash is still under investigation. It was reported that it had dropped off supplies in one location and was en route to a second site when contact was lost. Families and friends waited and prayed as it took ground and air searchers several days to find the crash site. The remains were recovered Saturday, May 16, and identified Sunday.
Joint Task Force 505 had arrived in Nepal on April 29 in response to the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 26. Samantha said Eric had emailed her to say “he felt purpose” after one of his missions delivering 10,000 pounds of rice to remote villages.
“My husband was a very selfless man and would have done anything to help others. And I know that right before he passed away, I know that he helped somebody,” Samantha said in the CNN interview.
The others who lost their lives in the crash of Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469 were identified as Capt. Christopher Norgren, 31, the pilot, of Wichita, Kansas; Capt. Dustin R. Lukasiewicz , also a pilot, of Nebraska; and Sgt. Ward M. Johnson, 29, of Florida.
Marine combat photographer Cpl. Sara Medina, of Illinois, and Marine combat videographer Lance Cpl. Jacob Hug, 22, of Phoenix, were on board as part of Marine Corps Installations Pacific, Okinawa, Japan. The Nepalese soldiers were identified as Tapendra Rawal and Basanta Titara.
Eric’s wife resides in Murrieta with their two young children, ages 2-1/2 and 1. It was reported that she and Eric both graduated from Elsinore High School, where a candlelight vigil was held on Sunday.
Canyon Lake residents Ruben Flores, Leigh Clark, and Robert and Renee Freire were among those who attended the vigil. Ruben says, “Although we never had the pleasure nor the honor of meeting Sgt. Seaman, his in-laws live here in Canyon Lake, and we just wanted to show the family our support and let them know how thankful we are for his service and ultimate sacrifice. There were several hundred people in attendance with family, friends, fellow Marines and others sharing memories of what a great man Eric was.”
Leigh adds, “A lady from Nepal spoke and brought the house down in tears, apologizing for this terrible tragedy for her country. Sam(antha) told her, ‘This is what Eric wanted to do; he volunteered to go there.’ I must say that it was a very heartfelt, memorable and fitting tribute to a true American hero who died helping others on behalf of the United States, something that Sgt. Seaman and his fallen Marine brothers will always be remembered for.”
On a GoFundMe.com website raising money for her family, Samantha wrote, “Thank you everyone for all of your love and support, as this past week of my life has been truly agonizing. I have been surrounded by the people that love Eric most since we learned he was missing. I have seen things that have touched me and my family like people holding flags at the intersection by my house and fire trucks driving by in support. I wish I could put into words how much every one of you mean to me and my family.”
She adds, “I know my husband is proud of his country for loving his family. We are working on planning Eric’s memorial and burial at this time. It will be open to anybody and everybody who Eric has touched. I want it to be huge. My husband deserves the world and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure we celebrate him in the biggest way possible. This pain in my heart will never subside, but with all of you behind my family I am doing my best to learn to manage it. Thank you, I love you all dearly.”
To make a donation to the family and for updates about the memorial service, visit www.gofundme.com and type “For the Family of Eric Seaman.”