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thedrifter
09-18-05, 08:15 AM
THEY run remember
September 18,2005
BY DIANE MOUSKOURIE View stories by reporter
DAILY NEWS STAFF

Brooke Gruber remembers her father. But mostly what she remembers are scenes from home videos and stories about him that others have told her.

Brooke, 6, lost her father, the late Maj. Brooks Gruber, when the MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft he was flying in crashed in the Arizona desert on April 8, 2000. There were 18 others aboard.

On Saturday, Brooke, her mother, Connie Gruber, and nearly 200 Marines and civilians gathered in Maysville for the fifth annual Fallen Friends 5k Race and 1 mile fun/run/walk. Their participation was a way for them to honor not only Maj. Gruber but 29 other Marines and civilians who lost their lives in Osprey crashes since 1992.

"My daddy's race is very special to me because my daddy died," Brooke said. "My mommy tells me stories about him, and I was named after him, too."

The race, which has become an important event for the Osprey crew, was organized by Connie Gruber and Patty Buyck, widow of Sgt. Jason Buyck. He too was among the crew that died in Arizona.

"I'm excited to be here, but it's always bittersweet," Connie Gruber said. "It's good to know the men remember those who died and that they are not forgotten."

Buyck flew in from upstate New York to join the other runners and walkers.

"This is something I wanted to continue so (Jason) is never forgotten," she said.

Several of the Marines, members of the VMX-22 and VMMT-204 squadrons at New River Air Station, ran alone or with their families. Many were friends with the Marines who died.

Gunnery Sgt. Jason Kanakis remembers well the tragedy of the crashes.

"Marines obviously care for one another, but VMX-22 is a small squadron and much more like a small family," Kanakis said. "We all started the program at the same time and when we lose one of our family, it hits too close to home."

He said the race has become even more important with so many new, younger Marines joining the squadron - Marines who did not personally know the men who died.

"This is how we keep their memory alive," Kanakis said.

Everyone deals with the tragedies and losses in different ways, said Col. Paul Rock.

"Everybody has a way to compartmentalize," Rock said. "It is the happier moments spent with those who died that I choose to remember most."

All together 26 Marines and four civilians died when the MV-22 Ospreys they were flying in crashed. The first crew of seven died on July 20, 1992, when the craft they were flying plummeted into the Potomac River while trying to land at Marine Corps Air Station Quantico, Va. Another 19 died on April 8, 2000, during a nighttime training mission at Avra Valley Airport in Marana, Ariz.

Four died when their craft crashed in the Hoffman Forest on Dec. 11, 2000. The wreckage was found about six miles south of the race's starting line.

Those who made the ultimate sacrifice include: Sgt. Jason A. Buyck, Lt. Col. John A. Brow, Cpl. Kelly S. Keith, Maj. Brooks S. Gruber, Lt. Col. Michael L. Murphy, Staff Sgt. William B. Nelson, Staff Sgt. Avely W. Runnels, Lt. Col. Keith M. Sweaney, Sgt. Jose Alvarez, Pfc. Gabriel C. Clevenger, Pfc. Alfred Corona, Lance Cpl. Jason T. Duke, Lance Cpl. Jesus Gonzalez-Sanchez, Maj. Brian J. James, Gunnery Sgt. Sean Joyce, Lance Cpl. Seth G. Jones, 2nd Lt. Clayton J. Kennedy, Master Sgt. Gary Leader, Cpl. Eric J. Martinez, Gerald Mayan, Lance Cpl. Jorge A. Morin, Cpl. Adam C. Neely, Pfc. Kenneth O. Paddio, Robert Rayburn, Pfc. George P. Santos, Pfc. Keoki P. Santos, Cpl. Can Soler, Anthony Stecyk, Patrick Sullivan and Pvt. Adam L. Tatro.

Proceeds from the race support two college scholarships presented to a high school senior at Jacksonville High School and another in Jones County.

Ellie
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