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Fellow Marines, family and friends pay tribute to ‘young heroes’ who died in NC crash

Veteran Cemetery Flag (nosheep/Pixabay)

The two Marines killed in a tactical rollover crash in North Carolina had been in service less than a year, according to Stars and Stripes..

The crash was reported at roughly 1 p.m. on Jan. 19 near the U.S. Highway 17 and state Highway 210, McClatchy News reported. Two other Marines were airlifted to a local hospital.

“While making the right turn — the vehicle is a 7-ton military vehicle — it lost control and overturned and ejected the Marines that were in the back of the truck out into the roadway,” Sgt. Devin Rich with North Carolina Highway Patrol said, McClatchy News reported.

There were 19 Marines in the vehicle when it toppled over, according to WRAL.

The two Marines that lost their lives were Lance Cpl. Jonathan E. Gierke, 19, from Lawrenceville, Ga., and Pfc. Zachary W. Riffle, 18, of Kingwood, W.Va. It was an incident that family members and public figures have called “tragic” and “100% preventable.”

Here are some of the online tributes to the two teenage Marines who died in the crash.

‘A Zach-sized hole’

Gary Argabrite posted online that Riffle was one of his great-nephews and saidnews of the crash left a “Zach-sized hole” in his heart.

“I was blessed to be part of his life and I’m so glad that I got to attend his graduation from Boot Camp,” Argabrite wrote in his post. “I also pray for the 19-year-old driver of the truck that flipped.”

Argabrite posted a video of the Marine’s boot camp graduation.

‘Young heroes’

North Carolina Congressman Greg Murphy took to Facebook on Jan. 21 to share his condolences.

“Both Jonathan and Zachary chose a life of service, and it’s a great tragedy to lose these young heroes,” Murphy wrote in his post. “Please join me in saying a prayer for both of these Marines’ families and loved ones, and our entire Camp Lejeune community.”

’Our hearts are broken’

Plant Cult, a greenhouse located in Morgantown, West Virginia, knew Riffle and chose to honor him by closing their business for a period of time to mourn his loss.

“When he decided to dedicate the next four years of his life to the USMC and serving his country he understood it carried certain risks,” the company wrote on Facebook. “However, neither Zachy or any of us ever considered he’d be gone too soon in 100% preventable incident.”

‘Rest easy, Marines’

Brig. Gen. Forrest C. Poole III, commanding general of the 2nd Marine Logistics Group, posted a photo of the two Marines online with a message to the family and the community. “My sincerest heartfelt condolences are extended to the family, friends, and colleagues of the Marines who lost their lives or were injured in Wednesday’s vehicle mishap,” Poole III wrote. “Rest easy, Marines. We have the watch.”

Poole III is among many in the military community who paid tribute to Riffle and Gierke with the motto of the Marines.

“Semper Fidelis.”


© 2022 The Charlotte Observer

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