Memorial held for 12 Marines killed in Hawaii helicopter crash

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Photo courtesy of Mike de la Cruz. 

A memorial was held Friday for the 12 United States Marines aboard two helicopters that crashed off the coast of Hawaii on Jan. 14.

The Marine Corps and the U.S. Coast Guard suspended search efforts for the missing Marines Wednesday after five days of searching. The Marines are now considered dead, according to a statement.

The Marines were part of the Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463, Marine Aircraft Group 24, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing stationed at the Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps base in Hawaii.

Sgt. Dillon Semolina, 24, of Chaska, Minn. was one of the Marines on board at the time of the crash. Semolina was a graduate of Delano High School. He joined the Marine Corps in September 2011. His decorations include the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal and the National Defense Service Medal. 

Statement from President Barack Obama

On behalf of all Americans, Michelle and I extend our deepest sympathies to the families of the 12 Marines missing from an apparent helicopter accident along the Hawaiian coast.  As we mourn this loss, we are reminded of the sacrifice men and women of our Armed Forces make each day for the freedom and security of their fellow Americans. The willingness of our troops to complete dangerous training to prepare for any mission our nation asks of them will not be forgotten.

The spirit of our missing Marines was reflected in the actions of the many dozens of service members and others in Hawaii who searched day-and-night for the downed helicopters.

Communities from coast-to-coast are mourning these Marines, and our nation is forever grateful for their patriotism, service, and sacrifice.  Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and loved ones at this difficult hour.

Statement from Secretary of Defense Ash Carter

Our hearts go out to the loved ones and family members of 12 Marines missing since an apparent helicopter collision off the coast of Hawaii last week. While there is no way to comprehend the grief their families feel today, this we do know: these proud Marines died as they lived, in service to a country they loved and in dedication to a cause greater than themselves.

I also want to extend my gratitude to the Air Force, Coast Guard, Navy, and Marine personnel who have been absolutely unwavering in their efforts to locate and rescue their colleagues. For the men and women who encountered rough seas and heavy swells over the course of these operations, "leave no man behind" was not a simple slogan; it was a solemn oath. We deeply appreciate their determination and the strong support they received from state and local authorities and the people of Hawaii.

The loss of these 12 brave Americans is a tragic reminder of the risks our men and women in uniform take each day in service to our country. Today, and on all days, we remember that it is because of their dedicated efforts that we live in peace and security.

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