A look at the lives of the 8 Marines, sailor lost in sunken amphibious assault vehicle

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The oldest was 23.

The youngest was only 18.

The families and Corps are mourning as they come to grips with the reality of July 30′s amphibious assault vehicle accident that resulted in the confirmed death of one Marine and the presumed death of seven other Marines and one sailor.

“I feel so much pain inside thinking this is not real,” Evelyn Baltierra, the mother of Pfc. Bryan Baltierra, 18, from Corona, California, told Marine Corps Times Monday.

Pfc. Bryan J. Baltierra, 18, of Corona, California, dreamed of being a Marine since he was a little boy. He was one of seven Marines missing and presumably killed after an AAV sunk off the California coast. (Baltierra family)

The AAV “rapidly” sank between about 1,500 meters off the California coast, the Corps said — on Baltierra’s one-year anniversary of swearing into the Corps, according to the young Marine’s mother.

“He has always dreamed of joining the military since he was a little boy,” and almost immediately after graduating from high school he achieved that dream, Evelyn Baltierra said.

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The young Marine loved the brotherhood he had entered and he would regularly, excitedly text his family about all the tough training he was receiving.

“My heart is breaking that I won’t be able to get his texts and the photos he sends us ever again,” Evelyn Baltierra said.

The rifleman’s awards included the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Armed Forces Service Medal, according to a Marine Corps release sent Friday afternoon.

Eight Marines escaped the vehicle and were returned to the amphibious transport dock Somerset, where three Marines were rushed to a nearby San Diego hospital.

Lance Cpl. Guillermo S. Perez, a 20-year-old from New Braunfels, Texas, was pronounced dead on the scene before being rushed to the hospital, a Sunday press release from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit said.

Perez had spent little over a year in the Marine Corps when he died, having reported to boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego on June 24, 2019.

His awards included the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal, according to a Friday afternoon press release from the Marine Corps.

All nine service members who were lost were part of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, assigned to the 15th MEU as part of the battalion landing team.

The crew of the AAV was able to escape and all the service members who died were in the rear compartment used to transport troops, Marine spokesman 2nd Lt. Logan Taylor told Marine Corps Times in a Monday phone call.

All except the corpsman were 0311 riflemen.

Riding in the back of the vehicle with Perez and Baltierra was Cpl. Wesley A. Rodd, 23, from Harris, Texas.

Rodd was the oldest Marine presumed dead. He had just become a new father.

Rodd reported to MCRD San Diego on Jan. 3, 2017, and was first assigned to the Marine Corps Security Force Regiment Bangor, Silverdale, Washington, before joining 1/4 in April, according to a Marine Corps release.

His awards include the Good Conduct Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and a letter of appreciation, the release said.

The sailor who was presumed to have been killed in the incident is U.S. Navy Hospitalman Christopher Gnem, 22, from Stockton, California.

“I met my soulmate and lost him,” a Facebook post by Savannah Henne said. “Chris Gnem, will have my heart forever and always.”

“I thought two weeks of this exercise would fly by and I’d see him on the ninth. Sunday when I dropped him off to go on ship, he forgot his mask so I am thankful that I got to turn around and hug him a little tighter and say I love you one more time.”

Gnem reported to Navy boot camp on May 3, 2017, and on Dec. 16, 2019, he joined the 1st Marine regiment as a hospital corpsman, according to a Marine Corps release sent out Friday afternoon.

During the accident he was assigned to Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, the release said.

His awards included the Navy Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, according to the release.

Lance Cpl. Chase Sweetwood, from Portland, Oregon, turned 19 during the 40-hour search and rescue mission conducted by the Corps in conjunction with the Navy and Coast Guard.

“Our family is beyond devastated,” the Marine’s aunt said on a GoFundMe page asking for donations to help hi travel to his funeral.

“Chase was one of the good ones in this life, and he was taken far too soon,” Lance Cpl. Chase Sweetwood’s aunt said of the young Marine. (Photo courtesy of the Sweetwood family, taken from GoFundMe.com)

Sweetwood reported to MCRD San Diego on Dec. 17, 2018, and was assigned to 1/4 on July 13, 2019, according to the Friday press release.

His awards include the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Armed Forces Service Medal.

Cpl Cesar Villanueva, 21, from Riverside, California, is another one of the young Marines presumed dead from the accident.

“My family just heard the most devastating news!! We loss an amazing young man and marine,” a close relative said on Facebook.

The young Marine reported to MCRD San Diego Sept. 5, 2017, and reported to his first unit, Marine Corps Security Force Regiment, Yorktown, Virginia, May 17, 2018.

Villanueva joined 1/4 on March 21.

His awards include the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and a Certificate of Appreciation.

Lance Cpl. Marco A. Barranco is one of eight service members lost and presumed dead after a July 30 amphibious assault vehicle crash. (Photo courtesy of the Barranco family)

Residents of Montebello, California, have set up a candlelight vigil and are attempting to arrange parade through town to honor Lance Cpl. Marco “Andy” Barranco, 21, a Montebello native presumed to have died in the accident.

“This loss is extremely hard on everyone who loved him,” Melissa Marie, who knew Barranco when he was in high school, told Marine Corps Times Monday.

“The community is coming together and we will be giving him the honorable send off he so deserves,” she said.

“Andy loved his family, loved his parents, loved his neighbors and everyone around him, always willing to help, lend a hand or ear,” Jorge Barranco said in a GoFundMe.com page seeking to raise money for the family.

“May you REST IN PARADISE Andy, we will forever hold you in our hearts,” the page adds.

Barranco reported to MCRD San Diego Feb. 25, 2019, on joined 1/4 in late August 2019, according to the Friday press release.

The Marine’s awards include the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Armed Forces Service Medal.

Pfc. Jack Ryan Ostrovsky, 21, from Bend, Oregon, was also aboard the vehicle as it sank on July 30.

Ostrovsky reported to MCRD San Diego on June 3, 2019, and joined 1/4 in November 2019, according to the Friday release.

The young Marine’s awards include the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Pfc. Evan A. Bath, 19, of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, with his father Andrew Bath shortly after the Marine graduated from boot camp in San Diego. (Andrew Barth)

The final Marine presumed to have died in the incident is Pvt. Evan A. Bath, 19, from Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

Bath was a “shy” and “quirky” who never sought attention or praise but dreamed about becoming a Marine since he was 9 years old, his father told Marine Corps Times in a phone call Friday evening.

“He was excited when they finally gave him a grenade launcher,” Andrew Bath said of his son’s Marine Corps training.

“In one way you know they’re badass men and soldiers and another way they’re still little boys,” he said.

Evan Bath reported to MCRD San Diego July 29, 2019, one year and one day before the AAV he was in sunk to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

The Marine joined 1/4 in November 2019 and his awards included the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, a Friday release from the Corps said.

Andrew Bath was confused when Marines showed up to his door Friday morning, thinking the recruiters forgot that his son had already joined the Corps.

“It was pretty rough, it was pretty rough,” Andrew Bath said once he was told his son was missing in the AAV accident.

“I’m just sad because I’ll never get to see him again.”

“I just hope that they can locate that AAV and that he’s in it so that we can at least bring my boy home and bury him,” he said.

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