The Brothers in Arms Foundation does not normally go outside its core group of Marine Special Operations Community, which encompasses Marine Forces Special Operating Command, Marine Force Reconnaissance Companies and Reconnaissance Battalions. But when they heard about the AAV accident that took place near Camp Pendleton, California, they knew their fellow Marines and their families needed help.
Nine Marines were killed in July when their amphibious assault vehicle took on water when returning to transport dock Somerset. They were conducting a training raid with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
Fifteen Marines were aboard the AAV when it started to sink. While some were able to escape, seven Marines and one sailor went down with the vehicle. One Marine was pronounced dead on the scene.
The remains of the seven Marines and one sailor were recovered on August 8.
Brothers in Arms Foundation provides financial help, services to fallen Marines’ families
When the Brothers in Arms Foundation heard of the AAV accident and the recovery of the remains, they immediately started to consider what they could do to help the families of those who were lost.
“We normally stick to MARSOC, Recon, and Force Recon,” retired Marine Staff Sgt. Steve Reichert of Raider Air Ops, said. “But after hearing what happened with 1/4 [1st Battalion 4th Marines], we wanted to go outside our regular corps.”
Brothers in Arms Foundation’s mission is to help the families of wounded, ill, injured, and fallen Special Operations Marines and Sailors with financial and logistical assistance, according to its website. It does this by partnering with like-minded organizations, like Raider Air Ops, to provide celebration of life ceremonies and take care of logistics in the background when it comes to helping families plan funeral services or set up caregiving resources.
Raider Air Ops provides no-cost air passage for personnel from MARSOC, Recon and Force Recon companies with their nationwide network of volunteer aircraft owners and certified pilots.
“We pride ourselves in getting things done without red tape…and providing white-glove service [to the families],” Reichert said.
Over 16,000 miles flown to help the families of the fallen
Five of the Marines killed in the AAV accident were local to southern California, but the remaining four were natives of Wisconsin, Washington and Texas. Brothers in Arms Foundation, together with Raider Air Ops, brought Marines to all four funerals in support of their fallen brothers. Its team also worked to help the families set up funerals.
In total, foundation members traveled over 16,000 with roughly 200 Marines in just a matter of days in order to support the families of the fallen.
“The parents [of the fallen] really appreciated having their son’s Marines come support the families,” Reichert said.
Raider Air Ops and Brothers in Arms Foundation have done eight missions this summer similar to the one in August for those killed in the AAV accident.
“We worked closely with CACO and Headquarters Marine Corps to make this happen,” he said. “We did all the funerals back to back, traveling 16,000 miles and change total.”
Reichert notes that all of the funerals have an impact on him and his fellow Marines, but one in particular stood out.
At the funeral for Pfc. Evan Bath, 19, of Kenosha, WI, Reichert remembers seeing Bath’s father.
“He was so down to earth. Even at the funeral, he was in a black Marine Corps t-shirt and jeans. I just remember seeing this dad and thinking, ‘I would do this any day of the week to support these Marines.'”
The Brothers in Arms Foundation accepts donations to help pay for missions such as these as well as:
- Education expenses for spouses and children of fallen Marines or Navy corpsmen
- Medical supplies for wounded service members and veterans recovering at home
- Special projects supporting fallen service members and veterans
- Relocation assistance not covered by the military
- Childcare assistance
- Home modifications for service members and veterans disabled in the line of duty