Marine families grieve for tight-knit crew lost in Pakistan

By Ben Fox The Associated Press
Friday January 11, 2002

SAN DIEGO — The new wedding ring was a surprise that Jennifer Germosen planned to present to her Marine husband when he returned from overseas next month. She never got the chance. 

A few hours after buying the gold ring she thought was nicer than his original, military officials arrived at her apartment to tell her that Staff Sgt. Scott Germosen, 37, died with six fellow crew members of a plane that crashed into a mountain in Pakistan on Wednesday. 

The ring now sits in a place of honor, beside the computer where Germosen surfed the Internet to download the ’80s music he loved and beneath the first and only portrait of his small family. 

“I don’t have a finger to put it on now,” Jennifer Germosen said, crying as she held the couple’s 22-month-old daughter, Alyssa. 

In Missouri, the family of Capt. Daniel McCollum mourned the loss of the 29-year-old pilot whose wife is expecting their first child on the Fourth of July. The native of Irmo, S.C., was remembered as a superb athlete and popular leader. 

The mother of Gunnery Sgt. Stephen L. Bryson, of Montgomery, Ala., said her only child had called her on Tuesday, his 36th birthday, to say he was thinking of her. The family has a military tradition; Bryson’s uncle, Raymond Bryson, died in a plane crash while serving in the Mississippi National Guard. 

Flags were lowered at the tiny high school in Wilbur, Wash., to honor 1999 graduate Nathan P. Hays, an Eagle Scout and classic car buff. The 21-year-old sergeant had been proud to return to his hometown of 1,000 people in uniform to talk with students about life in the Marine Corps. 

Sgt. Jeannette L. Winters, 25, is the first U.S. servicewoman to die in combat since the 1991 Gulf War. Her family in Gary, Ind., recalled her as a committed athlete and fun-loving pianist who was determined to push herself to great accomplishments. Her father, who hadn’t seen Winters in two years, took up a guitar and played a ballad he had hoped would be a duet. 

Military officials said Thursday there was no indication that enemy fire had brought down the plane and the cause of the crash would take time to determine. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said efforts to recover the bodies were hampered by the difficult terrain. 

In Coos Bay, Ore., Cub Scouts honored Bryan Bertrand, the corporal with whom they had been exchanging letters. The former all-state football player was remembered as a hero. 

Capt. Matthew Bancroft was so proud of his hometown of Burney that he couldn’t resist “buzzing” by the remote Northern California area in a KC-130 refueling jet after he earned his pilot’s wings. 

“He was tall, straight and proud. That’s my son,” Bob Bancroft said. 

Germosen was the oldest member of the KC-130 crew. At 5-feet-7 inches, he was also the shortest. He took some good-natured ribbing, but loved his job as the loadmaster for a detachment based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego. 

“The Marine Corps was his life and we were glad to be a part of it,” his wife said. 

Germosen, a New York native who lost a second cousin in the World Trade Center attack, volunteered for the overseas deployment. He and the others were part of a close-knit squadron of some 300 Marines, known as “the Raiders,” who took pride in their critical role of fueling jets in the sky and ferrying troops and supplies to battle. 

“Everyone knows exactly who everyone is in that squadron,” said Capt. Kent Kroeker, a close friend of Bancroft. “We fly with each other all the time. It’s one big team.” 

Kroeker struggled for words outside Bancroft’s home. From inside the house came the cry of the pilot’s 9-month-old daughter, and the roar of jets from Miramar thundered in the distance. “It’s just really, really hard,” he said. “He was a great pilot and a great man.” 

Across town, Jennifer Germosen, 25, accompanied by a fellow Marine wife, tried to make sense of the loss of her husband. 

Patting her daughter’s back, she said: “I have to figure out how to tell her she doesn’t have a daddy. I just don’t know.” 

Before he left on Dec. 11, she recalled feeling uneasy about the deployment. “You get this intuition in the pit of your stomach that you know it’s not right.” 

Despite his personal connection to the terrorist attacks, her husband didn’t talk about it with her. She said he discussed it with a military chaplain, keeping his anger to himself. 

“At home, he was as sweet as a teddy bear,” she said. 

Germosen first enlisted when he was 17. Later, he got a bachelor’s degree in psychology and worked as deputy sheriff and undercover officer for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. 

But he missed the Marines and he re-enlisted in 1996. Three months ago, his wife said, he re-upped for another four years and planned to stay. 

“He was a lifer,” she said.