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Remains of servicemen who died in California training exercise to be prepared for burial

The U.S. flag was lowered to half-staff at Park Semper Fi in San Clemente last month after the servicemen went missing.
(Associated Press)

Military officials are preparing to transfer the remains of seven U.S. Marines — including one from Montebello — and a Navy sailor to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware over the next few days to be prepared for burial.

The remains were recovered Friday after the servicemen went missing near San Clemente Island when their amphibious vehicle sank during a training mission last month.

“Our hearts and thoughts of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit are with the families of our recovered Marines and Sailor,” said Col. Christopher Bronzi, commanding officer of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. “We hope the successful recovery of our fallen warriors brings some measure of comfort.”

In a solemn transfer, Marine and Navy pallbearers will place the remains aboard an aircraft bound for Dover Air Force Base, officials said. From Dover, their remains will be released to their families in accordance with their wishes. The transfer of remains will not be open to the public.

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A group of service members and supporters went on an eight-mile hike Saturday morning in Carlsbad, Calif., to honor the Marines and sailor.

The U.S. military announced last week it had located the amphibious assault vehicle that sank off the coast of San Diego County, killing the young servicemen, and confirmed the presence of human remains where the vessel came to rest on the sea floor.

The naval Undersea Rescue Command made the discovery near San Clemente Island on Monday using video systems remotely operated aboard the HOS Dominator, a merchant vessel whose crew specializes in undersea search and rescue.

The amphibious troop-transport vehicle was en route to a waiting ship during a maritime training mission about 80 miles west of Encinitas when it foundered for unknown reasons about 5:45 p.m. on July 30, said Lt. Gen. Joseph Osterman, commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

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The 26-ton vessel went down roughly 1,600 yards from a beach on the northwest side of the island in water nearly 400 feet deep.

Seven members of the Camp Pendleton-based crew survived the accident. Medics took two of them to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, where both were admitted in critical condition. One was later upgraded to stable condition.

The other five rescued Marines received clean bills of health and returned to their units.

Pronounced dead at the scene of the accident was Lance Cpl. Guillermo S. Perez of New Braunfels, Texas. Perez, 20, was a rifleman with Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1/4, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

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The 15th MEU, I MEF and Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group searched in vain for nearly two days for more survivors or their bodies, concluding the operation Aug. 1 after 40 hours of scanning some 1,325 square miles of water by sea and air.

The other lost service members have been identified as:

— Lance Cpl. Marco A. Barranco, 21, of Montebello, a rifleman with Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1/4, 15th MEU;

— Cpl. Cesar A. Villanueva, 21, of Riverside, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU;

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— Pfc. Bryan J. Baltierra, 18, of Corona, Calif., a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU;

— Pfc. Evan A. Bath, 19, of Oak Creek, Wis., a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU;

— Christopher Gnem, 22, of Stockton, a Navy hospital corpsman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU;

— Pfc. Jack Ryan Ostrovsky, 21, of Bend, Ore., a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU;

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— Cpl. Wesley A. Rodd, 23, of Harris, Texas, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU;

— Lance Cpl. Chase D. Sweetwood, 19, of Portland, Ore., a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU.


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