Local

Valley Marine killed in helicopter collision over the Calif. Desert

Friday, February 24, 2012

Marine messengers delivered tragic news to a Valley family Thursday. Their son is among the casualties in a collision between two Marine helicopters.

In all, seven Marines died in the late night crash over a remote section of the California desert. Sgt. Justin Everett was a crew chief who was preparing for his third tour of war time duty -- this time in Afghanistan.

Justin Everett was a wrestler, a youth pastor, and a missionary. But most of all, his parents tell me, he was a Marine. They say the 33-year-old died doing what he loved.

The scorched earth and smoldering shards of metal in this desert training zone leave little doubt as to whether anyone survived the collision between two Marine helicopters.

Crew chief Justin Everett was among the casualties. The 1996 graduate of Reedley High School came from a family of military brothers who all loved flying.

"James, the oldest, he was a crew chief on C-130s," said Justin's father, James Everett, Sr. "Jason was a crew chief on B-1s. Justin's a crew chief on helicopters."

"And they all loved what they do, and Justin especially," said his mother, Patsy Everett.

Friends and family delivered food and hugs to support Everett's parents Thursday. Just hours earlier, two Marines knocked on their door with a much more ominous delivery.

"You know when you open the door," said Patsy Everett. "You know when you see them. You know why they're there."

"But we all know it's in God's hands too," said James Everett, Sr. "It always has been."

The Everetts are now flying their American flag at half-staff. They put it up to honor each of their three sons' military service and planned to take it down when the last one, Justin, came home. His death means it'll become a permanent fixture.

Everett leaves behind a wife and two young children, as well as a fresh memory for his mother -- one he carved just three days before his death, during his parents' last visit.

"I just keep it in my mind -- him hugging me and walking me to the car, and he always called me Mama Bear," said Patsy Everett.

Everett's parents are headed back to the Camp Pendleton area this weekend to make final arrangements. They're hoping to hold a memorial service for him after they come back.

All they were told about the crash is that it's under investigation.

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reedley, fresno county, local, corin hoggard
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