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    Exercise Fortress Lightening

    No Sacrafice Forgotten

    Photo By Lance Cpl. Paige Verry | Family, friends, and survivors gather in remembrance for the servicemembers of...... read more read more



    Story by Lance Cpl. Paige Verry 

    Marine Corps Base Quantico

    Forty-two years ago on October 21, 1977, 24 Marines were killed and 13 injured when a CH53-D Super Stallion plummeted off a cliff and fell 400 feet in the Philippine jungle below during Exercise Fortress Lightening.

    Family, friends and survivors recently commemorated the tragic event at a memorial ceremony at the National Museum of the Marine Corps' Semper Fidelis Memorial Chapel on a rainy Sunday. Raindrops raced down the chapel windows and a crisp cool autumn breeze moved through the open door as everyone rose for the march on the colors.

    Retired Chief Warrant Officer 5, Gary Matthews was on the ground during the training exercise on Mindoro Island. “The 13 survivors of this crash were recovered,” he said. He also explained that the 24 who died were memorialized while still in the Philippines. “They were given proper memorial ceremonies on ships that were afloat at the time."

    Five survivors made it to the ceremony and took the slow rain-soaked walk to the Blue Star Wall in the Semper Fidelis Memorial Park where the names of those involved in the accident were etched in bronze lettering. This was a special moment for them as well as the family and friends of everyone involved in the tragic accident.

    Gloria A. Goss' husband Sgt. Charles Anderson was killed in the exercise, recalled when she learned of his death. “When they came to tell me my husband was killed, we had only been married four weeks,” said Goss, with tears in her eyes. Goss became a driving force behind the plaque dedication and memorial service.

    While the families of those killed and the survivors could never forget that day, the story remained quiet for four decades, until John Bowman, who lost his brother, Lance Cpl. Steven R. Bowman, in the accident, began asking questions on social media. His queries were answered with more than 300 responses and thousands of comments. A few years later, an online group was created where more people began following this story.

    Goss responded to the wave of followers with information on how to have a plaque placed at the NMMC. She explained that having these Marines recognized was her “bucket list dream project."

    “I had to find some way to make him immortal,” said Goss.

    The simple plaque on the stone wall not only recognizes the Marines involved in the accident, but pays tribute to the rescue and recovery teams that traveled through the unpredictable and dangerous jungle terrain on the mountainside.

    “Marines take care of their own, and Marines remember their own,” said Matthews.



    Date Taken: 10.20.2019
    Date Posted: 10.22.2019 15:14
    Story ID: 348417
    Location: QUANTICO, VA, US

    Web Views: 2,024
    Downloads: 0