YUMA, Ariz.—The names of two Marine pilots who died in a helicopter crash during a training mission in southwestern Arizona were released on April 1 as the crash remained under investigation.
U.S. Marine Corps officials identified the dead pilots as Maj. Matthew M. Wiegand, 34, of Ambler, Pennsylvania, and Capt. Travis W. Brannon, 30, of Nashville, Tennessee.
The Marine Corps says the AH-1Z Viper pilots were conducting a routine training mission in southwestern Arizona when they crashed. https://t.co/SSD9cgWuH8
— FOX59 News (@FOX59) April 1, 2019
They said the AH-1Z Viper crashed about 8:45 p.m. Saturday on the vast Marine Corps Air Station Yuma training grounds while the pilots were conducting a training mission as part of a weapons and tactical instructor course.
Officials said Wiegand held qualifications in the AH-1Z Viper and AH-1W Super Cobra and Brannon was attending the semi-annual weapons and tactics instructor course hosted by the Yuma base.
“It is a somber day for the entire Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command as we mourn this tremendous loss,” Brig. Gen. Roger B. Turner Jr., a commanding general at the base in Twentynine Palms, California.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff Tuesday.
Wiegand, who joined the Marines in 2008, was assigned to the Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One in Yuma. His previous duty stations included the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida; the Marine Corps Base Camp in Pendleton, California, and the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma.
RIP. Our thoughts are w/ the families.
Marine Corps officials on Monday identified the 2 pilots killed during a routine training mission Sat. near Yuma as 34-year-old Maj. Matthew Wiegand of Ambler, Pa., and 30-year-old Capt. Travis Brannon of Nashville. https://t.co/7IAHwLZFJz
— The American Legion (@AmericanLegion) April 2, 2019
Marine officials said Wiegand previously deployed in support of a Unit Deployment Program in Okinawa, Japan, and his personal decorations included the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with a gold star.
Brannon was assigned to the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367, Marine Aircraft Group 24, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.
His previous duty stations included the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, the Marine Corps Base Camp in Pendleton, and the Marine Corps Air Station in Kaneohe Bay.
Brannon also participated in Marine Rotational Force-Darwin in Northern Territory, Australia, and his personal decorations included the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
Marine Shields Friend from Grenade Blast with His Body and Lives to Tell the Tale
For soldiers in the United States Marines, the difference between life and death can be the matter of a moment. The opportunity to save a life can occur just as quickly.
For Lance Corporal William Kyle Carpenter, jumping on a grenade to save the life of his friend was a split-second decision, but it was also an act of bravery that would resonate forever.
Kyle earned the prestigious title of Lance Corporal at the age of just 21. In this role, he was sent into war in Afghanistan in 2010 with a unit that included men that had, inevitably, become close friends. The unit had received strict training and the soldiers were strong, prepared, and competent in the roles they had been designated.
But life on the front line is unpredictable.
7 years ago today I was bleeding out on top of a dusty roof in Afghanistan. As I laid there, struggling for air, I…
As fighting intensified, Kyle found himself in the midst of a particularly frantic attack in which a grenade was thrown, and landed near to Kyle and his friend, another soldier.
Kyle calculated the trajectory of the grenade, and, noticing that his friend was in mortal danger, jumped on the grenade. Using his body as a shield, Kyle deflected the explosion and was able to save his friend’s life.
“As I laid there, struggling for air, I thought about my family, said a prayer, and let the world and life fade away,” Kyle remembered, in a poignant Facebook post.
Kyle’s instincts told him that his time was up, but his reserves of strength ran deep. He had, however, suffered devastating injuries. He was rushed to Camp Bastion, where he was initially pronounced dead, but, astounding the medical staff, he somehow managed to pull through. Doctors surveyed the damage and quickly diagnosed shattered bones in the face and skull, and a collapsed lung. Kyle’s body had been blasted with shrapnel.
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The brave soldier had a rough ride ahead.
Over two years, Kyle endured various surgeries to repair the damage caused by the grenade, which included complicated bone and facial reconstructive surgery, and surgery to repair his damaged lung. Kyle went through 40 surgeries in total. His friends and family stood by him and provided him with the support he needed to get through the ordeal. Their care and attention allowed Kyle to recover not only physically, but emotionally, and make sense of the huge decision he had made to jump on top of a live grenade.
“You mean more to me than I could ever express,” Kyle said of his family, with love.
Kyle has maintained a positive, stoic attitude, and even a sense of humor, throughout his recovery.
So loved. So blessed and so thankful for my family at home and my family at Walter Reed. You mean more to me than I could ever express.
As a mark of recognition for his extraordinary, quick-thinking action in the line of duty, and as a mark of respect for his sacrifice, Kyle was awarded the Purple Heart.
He also received a Medal of Honor, the most prestigious decoration awarded to military personnel, from President Barack Obama himself.
Kyle is and will always be a hero; his act of bravery defines him, and he hasn’t let his injuries hold him back. After taking the necessary time to endure surgery, heal, and recover both physically and mentally, Kyle is embarking on a brand-new challenge; he is working towards a degree from the University of South Carolina.
Kyle has retired from military service.
Epoch Times reporter Louise Bevan contributed to this report