Semper Fi: Gold Star families visit HWAD

By Matthew Wheaton, Joint Munitions Command, Public and Congressional AffairsSeptember 5, 2023

A tragic mortar accident occurred over 10 years ago at the Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada, during a live-fire Marine Corps training exercise. Gold Star family members of the seven Marines who lost their lives visited a memorial near the site on Armed Forces Day.
1 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A tragic mortar accident occurred over 10 years ago at the Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada, during a live-fire Marine Corps training exercise. Gold Star family members of the seven Marines who lost their lives visited a memorial near the site on Armed Forces Day. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Although the years have passed, the memory of the Hawthorne Seven, lives on. Near where a 60-millimeter round exploded prematurely in its launching tube, there is a memorial to them.
2 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Although the years have passed, the memory of the Hawthorne Seven, lives on. Near where a 60-millimeter round exploded prematurely in its launching tube, there is a memorial to them. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Seven Marines, who were all members of the 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, based in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, lost their lives in a tragic mortar accident over 10 years ago at the Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada. Family members view the memorial to their sacrifice.
3 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Seven Marines, who were all members of the 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, based in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, lost their lives in a tragic mortar accident over 10 years ago at the Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada. Family members view the memorial to their sacrifice. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Semper Fi: Gold Star families visit HWAD
4 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A tragic mortar accident occurred over 10 years ago at the Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada, during a live-fire Marine Corps training exercise. Seven Marines, who were all members of the 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, based in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, lost their lives. (Photo Credit: JMC Public Affairs Office) VIEW ORIGINAL

A tragic mortar accident occurred over 10 years ago at the Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada, during a live-fire Marine Corps training exercise.

Seven Marines, who were all members of the 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, based in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, lost their lives. The courageous individuals were Lance Cpl. David Fenn II, 20, of Polk City, Florida; Pfc. Joshua Martino, 19, Clearfield, Pennsylvania; Lance Cpl. Roger Muchnick Jr., 23, of Fairfield, Connecticut; Cpl. Aaron Ripperda, 26, of Madison, Illinois; Lance Cpl. Joshua Taylor, 21, of Marietta, Ohio; Lance Cpl. William Wild IV, 21, of Anne Arundel, Maryland; and Lance Cpl. Mason Vanderwork, 21, of Hickory, North Carolina. Each of them had chosen a path of service and demonstrated unwavering dedication and commitment to their country.

The explosion sent shockwaves throughout the military community and beyond, as the nation mourned the loss of these brave individuals. Their sacrifice serves as a stark reminder of the dangers faced by our service men and women, even during training exercises meant to enhance their skills and readiness.

Although the years have passed, the memory of the septet, also known as the Hawthorne Seven, lives on. Near where a 60-millimeter round exploded prematurely in its launching tube, there is a memorial to them.

The family members visited the scene on Armed Forces Day this year, and while the journey brought a mix of emotions, it also served as a reminder that HWAD personnel have not forgotten what happened on March 18, 2013.

“Now we know you have also been grieving for 10 years,” said Betz Wild, the mother of William Wild IV. “While we were trying to pick up the pieces back in our home state, healing our hearts and family, you kept the candle burning in Hawthorne for our precious, brave boys.

“You are where compassion lives. You live gently, and you love deeply,” she added. “We will forever be grateful.”

Kent Ripperda, father of Aaron Ripperda, echoed Wild’s sentiments.

“I feel our family had a healing journey,” he said. “We are very grateful for the hospitality everyone on base gave us, as well as the whole town.”

During the visit family members were escorted to the memorial near the accident site, viewed a memorial book that includes mementos placed at the site, and were recognized as Gold Star Family members. A Gold Star Family is the immediate family member(s) of a fallen service member who died while serving in a time of conflict.

“The memory of the Hawthorne Seven will forever be etched in the hearts and minds of those who knew them and those who appreciate the sacrifices made by our military. Their lives remind us of the high price of freedom and the extraordinary individuals who are willing to pay that price. Their names are not forgotten, and their service will be forever honored. May their souls rest in peace, and may we never forget the sacrifice they made,” said Larry Cruz, who is the commander’s representative at HWAD.