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St. Charles County Marine killed in training accident. Fort Zumwalt grad known for smile.

A welcome sign stands outside the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. (U.S. Marine Corps/TNS)

A U.S. Marine and Fort Zumwalt West graduate who died during a military training accident was remembered this week for his leadership and “infectious smile.”

The Marines said Sgt. Colin Arslanbas died near the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina on April 18, about two weeks after he was promoted to sergeant. He was 22. His wife was 3 months pregnant, a family friend said.

“Colin lived life to the fullest, you can see and feel that in his smile,” Arslanbas’ family said in a statement Tuesday. “He absolutely adored his wife and held her above everything else. His loss will leave a hole in our hearts, in this community and the country.”

Arslanbas, a 2019 graduate of Fort Zumwalt West, had “an infectious smile and a passion for serving those around him,” Fort Zumwalt School District officials said in a statement.

No details have been released about the training accident Arslanbas died in. An April 20 press release from Marines only said it was under investigation.

“Words cannot convey our sorrow for the tragic loss of one of our MEU family members,” Col. Todd Mahar, commanding officer of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said in a statement. “The 24th MEU family mourns the loss of an outstanding marine and leader. We offer our condolences and unwavering support to his family during this most difficult time.”

State legislators honored Arslanbas on Tuesday with moments of silence in the Missouri House and Senate.

State Sen. Nick Schroer, R-Defiance, said Arslanbas’ unit “is currently conducting rigorous training exercises to prepare for upcoming deployments.”

He said Arslanbas was “preparing to defend this country against threats that are constantly targeting America.”

Arslanbas enlisted in the Marine Corps in March 2020. He was promoted to Sgt. rank on April 1.

His decorations include the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and National Defense Service Medal.

Fort Zumwalt will “honor his service and his sacrifice in a fashion and at a time that is in accordance with the family’s wishes and the protocols and traditions of the United States Marine Corps,” the district said.

Mark Schmitz, who founded the Freedom 13 nonprofit after his son Jared Schmitz, a Marine, was killed in a 2021 suicide bombing in Afghanistan, said he’s working to put together a “hero’s return” for Arslanbas.

“Just because he wasn’t killed by the Taliban, or any enemy of ours, [this is] still a massive loss,” Schmitz said. “He’s a hero and deserves a hero’s welcome.”

In their statement, Arslanbas’ family said they planned to establish a fund for Arslanbas’ wife. They noted that any existing fundraisers as of Tuesday afternoon were not associated with the family. They asked for privacy.

“We appreciate the support you are showing to the families Colin was such a big part of,” the family’s statement reads. “As much as the supportive texts, phone calls and messages are appreciated, they have become overwhelming to the immediate family members. It is just too much right now.”

Details on a St. Charles-area service for Arslanbas have so far not been set.


(c) 2024 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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