Community pays respects to fallen Marine - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Community pays respects to fallen Marine

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HICKORY, NC (WBTV) -

A fallen Marine was honored Monday in Hickory with two separate memorial services.

One held at 2 p.m. brought out hundreds of flag waving supporters, many of them members of the Patriot Guard. Most said they didn't know the fallen Marine, Lance Corporal Mason Vanderwork.

Vanderwork had been to Afghanistan and back. He was killed in a training exercise in Nevada last month.

A memorial service was held at Camp Lejeune on Saturday but this was the first time the public could pay their respects where Vanderwork lived.

At a later service Monday at St. Stephens High School, Vanderwork's former football coach said, "That man did everything a hundred miles an hour and he did it with a smile on my face."

His best friend Army Private Devin Allison said, "We shared everything together..we talked about it all." Allison attended all three memorial services for his gradeschool buddy. And fulfilled a promise to Vanderwork that he'd take care of the marine's family should anything ever happen to him. "Everyday we were together. Riding our bike to the pool. Anything good in my life he was there for..anything that bad happened he took care of it, helped me through it."

Melissa Vanderwork read a birthday card she bought for her son just before his death. Vanderwork would've celebrated a birthday later this month. 

She told WBTV right after the accident, "I worried about him a little when he was overseas, but I never thought I would have to worry about him at home."

Mason had been in the Marines for four years. There are reminders of that all around the Vanderwork household.

"I was proud of my son, very proud," Vanderwork said.

Exactly what happened in Nevada is still a mystery to them. However, Mason's grandfather Terry Vanderwork, a former Marine himself, said it is important to know exactly what went wrong.

"If it was a freak accident, that's one thing, but if it is something that could have been prevented why wasn't it," Terry Vanderwork said.

Too many marine families are going through what they are experiencing he said. He does not want any more to suffer.

As for mom, it is going to be tough to get through this she said,

"He was my life, my world, my best friend, my hero...," Melissa Vanderwork said.

For now, the family says they will just have to hold on to each other to get through this.

A memorial service will be held Monday, April 1, 2013 at the Bass Smith Funeral Home in Hickory, at 2 p.m.

Then, the family will be escorted by the patriot riders and a local car club to St. Stephens High for another memorial service at 7 p.m.

Below is information on the other six Marines killed during the training exercise (courtesy of the Department of Defense)

Private First Class Joshua M. Martino, 19, of Clearfield, Pa., served as a mortarman assigned to 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment. He joined the Marine Corps in July 2012. Martino's awards include the National Defense Service Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Lance Cpl. David P. Fenn II, 20, of Polk City, Fla., was a mortarman assigned to 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment. He joined the Marine Corps in June 2010 and was promoted to his current rank in March 2011. Fenn's awards include the Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, and NATO Medal-ISAF Afghanistan. He was most recently deployed in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM in 2011.

Lance Cpl. Roger W. Muchnick Jr., 23, of Fairfield, Conn., was a mortarman assigned to 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment. He joined the Marine Corps in June 2010 and was promoted to his current rank in May 2011. Muchnick's awards include the Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, and NATO Medal-ISAF Afghanistan. He was most recently deployed in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM in 2011.

Lance Cpl. Joshua C. Taylor, 21, of Marietta, Ohio, was a mortarman assigned to 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment. He joined the Marine Corps in June 2010 and was promoted to his current rank in August 2011. Taylor's awards include the Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, and NATO Medal-ISAF Afghanistan. He was most recently deployed in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM in 2011.

Lance Cpl. William T. Wild IV, 21, of Anne Arundel, Md., was a mortarman assigned to 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment. He joined the Marine Corps in October 2010 and was promoted to his current rank in December 2011. Wild's awards include the Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, and NATO Medal-ISAF Afghanistan. He was most recently deployed in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM in 2011.

Corporal Aaron J. Ripperda, 26, of Madison, Ill., was an anti-tank missleman assigned to 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment. He joined the Marine Corps in September 2008 and was promoted to his current rank in April 2011. Ripperda's awards include the Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Commendation, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, and NATO Medal-ISAF Afghanistan. He was most recently deployed in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM in 2011.

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