OFF THE COAST OF MOROCCO (4/18/2012) – Marines and sailors
from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Iwo Jima
Amphibious Ready Group gathered together to honor Cpl. Derek
Kerns and Cpl. Robby Reyes during a memorial ceremony aboard
the USS Iwo Jima April 18.
Marines assigned to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (24th MEU)
pay their respects after a memorial service for Cpl. Robby A. Reyes
and Cpl. Derek A. Kerns aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault
ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), April 18, 2012. Reyes and Kerns were
assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron VMM-261 (Reinforced)
and were killed when a MV-22 Osprey crashed during a joint training
exercise in Cap Draa, Morocco last week. Iwo Jima is deployed as
part of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group with the 24th MEU in
support of maritime security operations and theater security
cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of
responsibility. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd
Class (SW) Travis J. Kuykendall
Kerns and Reyes died during a training accident in Morocco,
April 11, when the MV-22 Osprey they were flying in crashed
while participating in the bi-lateral training exercise
called African Lion 12. Both Marines were crew chiefs with
the 24th MEU's aviation element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor
Squadron VMM-261 (Reinforced), based out of Marine Corps Air
Station New River, N.C.
The memorial took place in
the ship's hangar bay, where Marines and Sailors stood in
formation centered around photos of the two Marines against
the backdrop of a clear sky and blue water.
Kerns' and Reyes' fellow crew chiefs shared a few words and
stories about their friends during the ceremony.
Lance Cpl. Michael Garrison, who had known Kerns since air
crew school, described him to the crowd as a “skinny kid
from Jersey who always had a story for everything that was
“I knew him for three-and-a-half years; it
doesn't seem real,” said Garrison. “He was an outstanding
friend, an outstanding father, husband, crew chief and
brother to everybody. There was never a down time with him;
he was always happy.”
Cpl. Lucas Schmidt stepped to the
podium and explained that Reyes “wasn't the kind of guy who
stuck out in a crowd. And that's the way he liked it.”
He described his friend by informing the Marines and
sailors that Reyes extended his enlistment to remain a
VMM-261 “Raging Bull” for the current 24th MEU deployment,
and that when others complained about what seemed like
meaningless work, Reyes would roll with it and laugh it off.
“I will never forget him, and we could all learn a thing
or two from a man like Robby Reyes,” said Schmidt.
Toward the end of the ceremony, Sgt. Maj. Ricky Jackson, the
senior enlisted Marine for VMM-261 (reinforced), marched
front and center of his Marines, stood at attention and
conducted a ceremonial roll call. This procedure consisted
of Marines within the unit responding to the sergeant major
as he called their names. When Jackson called Kerns' and
Reyes' names, there was only silence.
Roll call was
followed by the playing of taps and a three-shot-volley
Lt. Col. Brian Smith Jr., the
commanding officer of VMM-261 (reinforced), who had flown
recently with both Kerns and Reyes, honored them by defining
a crew chief's role in the Marine Corps.
require constant work and it doesn't matter whether it's
hot, cold, or raining. A crew chief's job is extremely
under-appreciated, but they're the reason aircraft keep
flying and they do it with a smile on their face, he said.
Col. Frank Donovan, commanding officer of the 24th MEU,
paid homage to Kerns and Reyes by focusing the Marines and
Sailors of the 24th MEU on the future.
honor them through words; tomorrow we honor them through
actions,” he said.
Smith's comments to the Marines
concluded in similar fashion.
“There's no greater way
to honor Kerns and Reyes than to continue to do the things
we've already done. Everyone counts on us, and I count on
you,” he said. “The next time we do something amazing... I can
look at each one of you in the eye and know that we're
honoring their memory. Because that's exactly what they
would have wanted.”
More photos of the memorial service
for fallen Marines Cpl. Robby A. Reyes and Cpl. Derek A.
By USMC 2nd Lt. Joshua Larson
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