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Marine Staff Sgt. John R. Howard

Died August 11, 2004 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

26, of Covington, Va.; assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166 (Reinforced), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.; killed Aug. 11 in a helicopter crash in Anbar province, Iraq.

Marine dies in Iraq chopper crash

Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. — A Marine from Virginia was killed when the helicopter is which he was riding crashed in Iraq, the Department of Defense said Monday.

Staff Sgt. John R. Howard, 26, of Covington, Va., was killed in the crash. A second Marine, Lance Cpl. Tavon L. Hubbard, 24, of Reston, Va., also was killed. The crash occurred last Wednesday in Iraq’s Anbar province and currently is under investigation.

Howard was assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465 at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif. He entered the service on June 11, 1996, according to a statement from the base.

Howard’s mother, Kathryn Howard of Covington, said the helicopter was on a supply mission when it caught fire and went down with five Marines aboard. Her son was the crew chief.

“We weren’t even sure he was in Iraq until this happened,” Kathryn Howard told the Roanoke Times. “We figured he was, but we didn’t know for sure.”

She said she last saw the youngest of her three sons June 28 in San Diego, where he lived with his wife, Amie, and two stepchildren, 5-year-old Kaitlyn and 7-year-old Sean. Howard was just about to return to Iraq and spoke well of his job, his mother said.

“He did love flying in those helicopters,” she said. “He loved it, and he wanted to go back. He said that was his job and those people needed him.”

Howard graduated in 1996 from Alleghany High School, where he was on a wrestling team. John Hutchison, who was Howard’s guidance counselor, said military recruiters always piqued Howard’s interest when the school had career fairs.

“He always did indicate a desire to go into the military” and decided on the Marine Corps during his senior year, Hutchison said.

Kathryn Howard said her son joined the Marines just two days after his high school graduation.

“I begged him not to do it,” she said.

But Howard had his mind and his heart set on becoming a Marine, so he and his mother compromised: He would join the Marines, but he would train to be a mechanic rather than a combat Marine.

When John Howard was called to a second tour of duty in Iraq, he didn't hesitate. "He told us that not only did he have to go back there, he wanted to go," said his older brother, Alan. "He wanted to be over there to help those people secure their freedom." The 26-year-old Covington, Va., native died Aug. 11 in a helicopter crash in Anbar province. He was based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., where he lived with his wife, Amie, 5-year-old daughter Kaitlyn and 7-year-old son Sean. Howard came from a military family. His grandfather was a Marine sergeant and his father and brother both served in the Navy. When Howard's high school had career fairs, the military recruiters always piqued his interest, his guidance counselor said. Howard joined the Marines just after graduation, though his mother, Kathryn, begged him not to. As a compromise, he agreed to be a mechanic instead of a combat Marine. "He did love flying in those helicopters," she said. "He said that was his job and those people needed him."

— Associated Press

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