Each July 4 we celebrate our Independence as a sovereign and proud Country. It was on this day in 1776 that the final draft of the Declaration of Independence was adopted when our 13 colonies claimed independence from England; an outcome that eventually led to the formation of the United States of America.  The heroes that signed the Declaration of Independence paid a particularly heavy price, as many were labeled traitors, often hunted and persecuted. They never wavered on their beliefs of “firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.”

On June 8, 2022, an aviation mishap resulted in the tragic death of Capt. Nicholas Losapio, Cpl. Seth Rasmuson, Capt. John Sax, Cpl. Nathan Carlson, and Cpl. Evan Strickland. The five Marines were aboard an Osprey MV-22B during routine flight training in the Southern California desert.  All five were assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor (VMM) Squadron 364, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), and were based at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, CA. The Osprey, a unique tiltrotor aircraft that can take off and land like a helicopter, and fly like an airplane, declared its Operation Capability Designation in June 2007.

The V-22 Osprey Program is based in Southern Maryland, Naval Air Systems Command headquarters, Patuxent River, Maryland.  

It’s unclear what lead to the aviation mishap; an investigation is underway.  What is clear, is that they are heroes.  What we do know is that these five Marines shared the same spirit as our Founding Fathers by pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

“We must never forget that we would not have an Independence Day without stalwart citizens willing to give all their futures in order to create and maintain our freedoms throughout every era of our history.” Said, LtCol Ret Michael Landree, US Marine Corps, in an exclusive interview with the Southern Maryland Chronicle.

Credit: Todd Anderson

“While we specifically honor our veterans on Veterans’ Day, and those who have sacrificed their lives for our country on Memorial Day, I find it appropriate, and frankly thoughtful, to remember our recently fallen Marines – and all members of our Military, this and every July 4.” Said, LtCol Landree, who served two combat tours in Iraq, two tours in Afghanistan, and peacekeeping operations in Kosovo, and East and North Africa.

Col Brian Taylor, V-22 Program Manager based at Pax River NAS, said “I am saddened and my heart weighs heavily for our fallen heroes, and for their families and friends.  We are a Country whose best days are ahead of us because of heroes like Capt. Nicholas Losapio, Cpl. Seth Rasmuson, Capt. John Sax, Cpl. Nathan Carlson, and Lance Cpl. Evan Strickland.”

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Nicholas P. Losapio, 31, an MV-22B Pilot, of New Durham, New Hampshire was remembered for his loyalty and generosity. He graduated from Exeter High School where he was a member of the wrestling team.  He was assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 364 where he served as an MV-22B Pilot. His personal awards include the Air Medal with Strike/Flight numeral 2, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Navy Unit Commendation, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon. He served as a United States Marine for 8 years and 9 months.

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Seth D. Rasmuson, 21, of Johnson, Wyoming, married his high school sweetheart, with a newborn son. An outdoorsman, he loved spending time with his family on Wyoming’s plains. He was assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 364 where he served as a Tiltrotor Crew Chief. His personal awards include the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon. He served as a United States Marine for 3 years and 2 months.

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. John J. Sax, 33, married with one child and one on the way, was fondly remembered, “My son, Captain John Jeremy Sax loved being a Marine. He loved to serve this country. He was an amazing husband, father, brother, uncle, friend, nephew, cousin and the absolute best son any man could ask for. He is and always will be my hero,” said Steve Sax, a former Major League Baseball player said, on Instagram.

In a statement through his publicist Steve Sax added, “For those of you that knew Johnny, you saw his huge smile, bright light, his love for his family, the Marines, the joy of flying airplanes and defending our country! He was my hero and the best man I know, there was no better person to defend our country.”

Capt. Sax, an MV-22B Pilot of Placer, California, was assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 364 where he served as an MV-22B Pilot. His personal awards include the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and a Letter of Appreciation. He served as a United States Marine for 5 years and 8 months.

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Nathan E. Carlson, 21, of Winnebago, Illinois, captain of his high school swim team, was assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 364 where he served as a Tiltrotor Crew Chief. His personal awards include the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon. He served as a United States Marine for 3 years.  His friends indicate that Nathan would want us to celebrate his life, as he died doing what he loved to do, serving our Country.  

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Evan A. Strickland, 19, of Valencia, New Mexico remembered for his sense of humor and love of music, especially the saxophone, was assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 364 where he served as a Tiltrotor Crew Chief. His personal awards include the National Defense Service Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. He served as a United States Marine for 1 year and 7 months.

Patuxent River, Drum Point Maryland Credit: Sal Icaza

Much like our heroes of 1776, military heroes of our time understand the true cost of freedom. The women and men who have taken the voluntary oath of enlistment put their lives on the line each day to nurture our freedoms, and to protect the often-threatened Independence of our Constitutional Republic.  “The professionals at NAVAIR and in the USMC, USAF, and USN fleets of Marines, Airmen, and sailors who fly this amazing aircraft truly understand Independence; what it stands for, and fight for it every day.  There is no other country in the world that does what we do, and it is an honor to be a small part of that legacy and the story of this amazing country.” Said, Col Brian Taylor.

As you light up the grill on Independence Day, remember Lance Cpl. Evan Strickland.  Give a quick thumbs up to Cpl. Nathan Carlson as you char another Illinois-style hot dog.  Have a cold one in the Mountains near Placer in Capt. John Sax’s memory.  Have two. Have the best Cowboy Steak that you’ve ever had anywhere on the range in Wyoming and remember fondly the memory of Seth Rasmuson.  Smile in remembrance of Nicholas Losapio as you playfully adjust your bib just right while indulging in a Lobster Pound.  Remember their families.

Personally, I will thank my better half, Johanna, for her service. I will acknowledge with admiration the Scarbrough, James, and Landree families, for their military service tradition.  I will offer Col Brian Taylor, V-22 Program Manager, my heartfelt condolences, and I will think in gratitude, of the heroes that make up the V-22 Program and their families.  I will take a moment of silence in prayer for heroes that have gone before us in service to our Country. I hope that you do so as well.

Happy Independence Day, America!

Credit: Sal Icaza

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