Remembering the fallen in the Chattanooga attacks

Remembering the fallen in the Chattanooga attacks

July 18th, 2015 by Kate Belz in Local Regional News

Caroline Dove holds a photo of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Skip Wells, her boyfriend, in her hands July 17, 2015, at her home in Savannah, Ga. Wells was among four Marines killed July 16, 2015, in an attack at a military training facility in Chattanooga.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Gallery: Puzzling out answers, pouring out grief

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They were sons. Brothers. Boy Scouts and football players.

They were lovers. Husbands. Fathers.

They were Marines, and a Navy sailor.

injured

A Chattanooga police officer and a Marine recruiter are among those wounded in Thursday’s deadly attacks.

Twenty-six-year-old Randall Smith, who has been identified by the military news publication Stars and Stripes as a logistics specialist in the U.S. Navy, was also injured, but died early Saturday morning, officials said.

While the U.S. Marines have confirmed that a Marine recruiter was shot in the leg during the attacks, they declined to formally release his identity. He has been treated and released from the hospital.

“This is a time for healing for the Marine, his family, and the community,” Greenberg said.

Chattanooga Police officer Dennis Pedigo was shot in the ankle. On Friday, police Chief Fred Fletcher said Pedigo was dragged to safety after the shootout by several police officers. He is expected to make a full recovery.

The four Marines who died during Thursday's attacks in Chattanooga had between themselves served more than 35 years for the Marine Corps. One had been in the Marines 18 years and been awarded two Purple Heart medals. Another had joined just last year, hoping to follow in his military family's footsteps. A fifth victim, who sustained major injuries during the attack, died early Saturday morning. Randall Smith, 26, was a US Navy sailor.

Three had served multiple tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the globe. All four Marines had moved to Chattanooga after the Marines Corps assigned them to perform "administrative and logistical support" for the Mike Battery, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment at the Navy Operational Support Center on Amnicola Highway.

Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas J. Sullivan, Lance Cpl. Squire "Skip" Wells and Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt went to work as usual Thursday morning. And there — in the unlikeliest of combat zones — they made the ultimate sacrifice.

Later that day, officers began showing up at the doors of the Marines' families to deliver the news. Marine Corps officials released names of the fallen Friday in a statement expressing "deep regret and heartfelt sorrow."

"Our priorities are focused on supporting the families of our Marines involved and assisting federal investigators," Marine Corps spokesman Maj. Paul Greenberg said Friday.

While the four Marines were killed on U.S. soil and not in battle overseas, they will be given the same ceremonial honors as Marines who die in combat, Greenberg told the Times Free Press. Their remains were sent Friday to the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, the same place where the war dead return to U.S. soil.

"Upon arrival, transfer cases will be draped and an honorable transfer will be conducted," Greenberg said.

The transfer is a solemn practice during which the cases of remains are carried by a team of military personnel — in this case, Marines — from the aircraft to a transfer vehicle "to honor those who have given their lives in the service of our country," according to the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations website.

The men's families will be entitled to full benefits since the Marines were all on active duty, Greenberg said.

Greenberg said the official determination whether the four Marines died in the line of duty required a complex process and will be made later.

"I can state with confidence that these Marines were serving their country honorably, performing their duties in a professional manner, at the time of their deaths," Greenberg said.

Here are just snapshots of what we now know about those men:

Carson Holmquist

Carson Holmquist

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist

* Entry base date: Jan. 20, 2009

* Automotive Maintenance Technician

* Deployments: Two deployments for Operation Enduring Freedom

Sgt. Carson Holmquist's old football coach in Grantsburg, Wis., remembers the day the new recruit returned to his old high school wearing his Marine dress blues.

"When he became a Marine he was very proud of that," Josh Watt told The Associated Press.

A photo posted recently to Holmquist's Facebook page shows a woman and a child holding signs welcoming Holmquist home from a tour of duty.

"We've waited 244 days for this moment," the sign held by the woman stated.

The child held a sign reading, "Welcome Home Daddy."

On Fridays, Holmquists' page began to fill with condolences and messages of grief.

"I was looking forward to grabbing drinks when you got out here but because some terrorist decided he didn't like the US military I will have a drink in honor of you," a friend wrote on Holmquist's Facebook page. "You will be missed bud."

David Wyatt

David Wyatt

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt

* Entry base date: May 4, 2004

* Field Artillery Operations Man

* Deployments: Two deployments for Operation Iraqi Freedom; 1 deployment for Operation Enduring Freedom

After three tours of duty since 2007, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt — originally from Burke, N.C. — lived in Hixson with his wife and young children.

On Friday, Wyatt's home was bedecked with an American flag and guarded by a Hamilton County Sheriff's Office deputy.

Wyatt's wife, Lorri Wyatt, had received an outpouring of support over Facebook by Friday afternoon.

"He was such a great husband and father, I'm so so sorry for you Lorri," one friend wrote.

Tony Ward, Wyatt's old scoutmaster in the Boy Scouts, remembered a young man who would run up mountains, just for fun, seeking to best the time of others, the AP reported.

Ward called the fallen Marine a man who enjoyed life, someone who cared about his job and those who served with him.

"He's the kind of man that this country needs more of," he said.

Thomas J. Sullivan

Thomas J. Sullivan

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Gunnery Sgt. Thomas J. "Tommy" Sullivan

* Entry base date: Sept. 2, 1997

* Field Artillery Cannoneer

* Deployments: Two deployments for Operation Iraqi Freedom; 1 deployment last year to the Western Pacific

Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, 40, had earned two Purple Hearts while serving two tours of duty in Iraq.

In Springfield, Mass., in the area where Sullivan grew up, his brother's restaurant, Nathan Bill's Bar & Restaurant, hung an American flag outside the door and posted a message on Facebook with a message, "Here's to our hero."

"Thank you Tommy for protecting us," they also wrote.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker ordered flags to half-staff as he proclaimed, "Terror comes home to Massachusetts."

Outside the home of Sullivan's parents, Hampden Police Chief Jeff Fansworth told reporters the family was in shock and disbelief, the AP reported.

"How hard would it be for anybody to lose a child?" he asked. "It doesn't get much harder than that."

Skip Wells

Skip Wells

Photo by Russ Bynum

Lance Cpl. Squire K. "Skip" Wells

* Entry date: Feb. 10, 2014

* Field Artillery Cannoneer

* Deployments: None

Lance Cpl. Skip Wells, 21, had been in the Marine Corps a little over a year, following in the footsteps of a military family, the AP reported. His grandfather had been in the Air Force, and his grandmother and mother served in the Navy.

A resident of Marietta, Ga., Wells attended Georgia Southern University for one year, where he met his girlfriend of 2 1/2 years, Caroline Dove.

According to the AP report, Wells was texting with Dove on Thursday morning, excited that she had booked a flight to visit him in Chattanooga. He then suddenly sent her a two-word message: "ACTIVE SHOOTER." She would learn his fate hours later.

Georgia Southern University spokeswoman Jan Bond said the community was saddened by the news of Wells' death.

"The Eagle Nation offers our deepest condolences to his family and the families of those killed and wounded during this incident."

US Navy Petty Officer Randall Smith

Smith, a 26-year-old logistics specialist in the U.S. Navy, was a reservist serving on active duty in Chattanooga.

Smith's Facebook page says he lived in Rossville, Ga., and is from Paulding, Ohio.

The Salinas Journal in Kansas reported that Smith and his wife Angie have three daughters age 6 and younger. The newspaper spoke to an aunt, Tania Daugherty, who said family members drove all night after the shooting to be at Smith's side in Chattanooga.

Randall Smith lived in Ohio until he entered the service, the paper reported.

"He had just re-enlisted and got transferred [to Chattanooga]," Daugherty told the Journal.

U.S. Navy Petty Officer Randall Smith has died, after being shot in Chattanooga, Tenn., on July 16, 2015.

U.S. Navy Petty Officer Randall Smith has died,...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact staff writer Kate Belz at 423-757-6673 or email kbelz@timesfree press.com.

This story was updated at 10:50 a.m. on July 18.

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