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VMM-364 (REIN) Memorializes Marines Lost One Year Ago while Deployed to Djibouti

08 June 2023

From Lt.j.g. Victoria Piccoli

Marines and Sailors assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor (VMM) Squadron 364 'Purple Foxes' hosted a 5k memorial run across Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, June 8, 2023, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the MV-22B Osprey crash that killed five Marines in Southern California at 12:25 p.m. on June 8, 2022.
The run served as a way to continue the legacy of VMM-364 pilots, Capt. Nicholas Losapio and Capt. John Sax, and crew chiefs, Cpl. Nathan Carlson, Cpl. Seth Rasmuson, and Lance Cpl. Evan Strickland.

“This is a solemn day to honor the brothers we lost last year,” said Lt. Col. John Miller, commanding officer of VMM-364 (REIN). “Everybody here today is family and a part of the legacy they built... We will never forget them and continue to honor them through our words, actions, and dedication to duty.”

The 5k memorial run was broken up into five stops, one per kilometer, where there was a speech by a member of the squadron that shared memories like remembering Lance Cpl. Strickland’s great sense of humor to Capt. Sax’s love for his family, his fellow Marines, and flying Ospreys.

“One year ago, we lost five brothers… We are going to hurt tonight in our own way. Let’s respect them, think of them, let’s get through this and go through a bit of personal sacrifice as well,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Chad Debruyne, maintenance department chief and VMM-364 acting senior enlisted leader.

Leading up to the one-year anniversary of the accident, members of the VMM-364 worked daily to memorialize Losapio, Sax, Carlson, Rasmuson, and Strickland, like painting their call signs on five of the MV-22B Ospreys that are flown and operated daily at Camp Lemonnier.

“It really meant a lot to give back to those who lost their lives,” said Cpl. Reed Lawlor, an air frames mechanic who helped paint the call signs on the Ospreys. “It’s a bit of solace to be reminded of them every day. Last time I was in Djibouti I was here with some of them, so it’s nice to see their names everyday walking by the birds now.”

Since the accident, members of the VMM-364 (REIN) have met and overcome a series of challenges including deploying to the Horn of Africa on short notice.

“I am incredibly proud of the Purple Foxes - I didn’t know how we were going to get through it when the mishap happened,” said Miller. “We had to overcome so many challenges and making it through the first day, first week, getting back in the aircraft, preparing for a MEU, and then being assigned this mission and having to deploy a purpose built team of 300 Marines and Sailors on short notice was impressive to watch. No one else could have done what this team did. I attribute our success to what the Swift 11 crew taught us. They taught us how to fight and win as a team. They were Marines, our brothers, and most importantly they were Purple Foxes.”

The 5k memorial run is expected to continue and become an annual event held on June 8th to honor, and memorialize their lives.

VMM-364 (REIN) is forward deployed to Camp Lemonnier serving as the air combat element in support of Crisis Response Africa 23.2. The unit is a composite squadron hailing from Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton and Miramar.

CLDJ is an operational installation that enables U.S., allied, and partner nation forces to be where and when they are needed to ensure security in Europe, Africa, and Southwest Asia.

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