A 19-year-old from West Covina was one of the three U.S. Marines lost when a military aircraft crashed off the Australian coast last week.
On Monday the Marine Corps identified Pfc. Ruben Velasco as one of the victims of Saturday’s crash, along with 1st Lt. Benjamin Cross, of Maine, and Cpl. Nathaniel Ordway, of Kansas.
“To the families of the brave Marines we lost – there is no way for us to understand what you are going through,” Col. Tye R. Wallace, the commanding officer of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, said in a statement. “What we do know is that your Marines left a lasting impression on the 31st MEU, the Marine Corps, and the world.”
‘He was a big brother to everyone’
According to the Marine Corps statement, Velasco had earned a national defense service medal and the global war on terrorism service medal.
Velasco graduated from West Covina High School last year, the school’s principal said on Twitter. He asked that the school community keep Velasco and his family “in your thoughts and prayers.”
At his high school, Ruben was known as a supportive friend who could make anyone laugh, said his friend Spencer Bocanegra, 19.
“If you needed someone to cheer you up or someone to make you laugh, someone to make you smile, he was there,” Bocanegra said. “You kind of woke up every day looking forward to seeing Ruben.”
Bocanegra said Velasco treated him and others with respect and was known for his track and football skills as well as his efforts in the classroom.
Velasco had a baby brother at home, but at school he was “a big brother to everyone,” Bocanegra said.
According to Velasco’s Twitter posts, he celebrated his birthday in Australia less than a week before the crash.
About the crash
There were 26 people aboard the MV-22 Osprey on Saturday when the military aircraft crashed into the sea about 18 miles off the coast of the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Queensland, according to a release from the Marine Corps.
Twenty-three of the people were rescued, and efforts to find the remaining three were called off Sunday.
Velasco’s family posted on Facebook on Sunday that they had been informed that the search had transitioned to a “recovery.”
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