This Week at War: ‘It’s Just Heartbreaking’

Honoring the 9 American heroes who lost their lives in a tragic training accident off the Southern California coast.

Top row: U.S. Marine Pfc. Bryan Baltierra, Pfc. Evan Bath, U.S. Navy Seaman Christopher Gnem and U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Guillermo Perez. Bottom row: U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Chase Sweetwood, Cpl. Wesley Rodd, Cpl. Cesar Villanueva and Pfc. Jack Ryan Ostrovsky. Not pictured: Lance Cpl. Marco Barranco.

By Tom Sileo Published on August 7, 2020

Eight U.S. Marines and one U.S. Navy sailor were tragically killed in a July 30 amphibious assault vehicle accident off the Southern California coast. As their remains are solemnly recovered near San Clemente Island, The Stream‘s This Week at War feature pauses to pray for all nine families of the fallen while honoring each of these young American heroes.

Lance Cpl. Guillermo S. Perez, 20, New Braunfels, Texas

“He was truly an amazing person who impacted a lot of lives,” fellow U.S. Marine David Latigo told News 4 San Antonio about his friend.

Lance Cpl. Guillermo Perez is being remembered not only for his service to our country, but his “infectious smile.”

“He was honestly sent to earth to make people laugh,” Latigo told the TV station. “He was always in good spirits no matter what was going on.”

Please pray for Perez’s loved ones, friends and fellow Marines.

Pfc. Bryan J. Baltierra, 19, Corona, California

One year after enlisting in the Marine Corps as a teenager, Pfc. Bryan Baltierra made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

“My one and only son, who radiated positivity and expressed his wonderful smile to everyone he met,” the fallen Marine’s mother said in a statement relayed by CBS Los Angeles.

The TV station reported that the departed warrior is survived by his parents and three sisters, all of whom we are praying for.

Lance Cpl. Marco “Andy” Barranco, 21, Montebello, California

“I’m so proud of you, you are the best son I could ask for,” Lupita Garcia said to her son, Lance Cpl. Marco Barranco, known to those around him as Andy. “My heart goes out to all those families because it’s not just my son.”

CBS L.A. reported that Lance Cpl. Barranco “was inspired to serve his country because of the opportunities it gave his immigrant parents and family.”

“He wanted to be part of this great nation and he wanted to protect it and I know he would do it again,” the fallen hero’s mother told the station.

In addition to his parents, Barranco reportedly leaves behind two sisters. We ask God to comfort them.

Pfc. Evan A. Bath, 19, Oak Creek, Wisconsin

Less than a week before making the ultimate sacrifice, Pfc. Evan Bath took a break from training to call his mom.

“He found a doorway in the ship that he found a little bit of signal, and he called me,” Aleta Bath told FOX 6 Now Milwaukee. “He said he was really happy, so I knew that. It made me happy.”

The young Marine was reportedly an active member of Lifepoint Church in Mukwonago, Wisconsin. We join Lifepoint’s congregation in praying for this faithful warrior’s parents, stepmom and stepsisters.

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U.S. Navy Hospitalman Christopher “Bobby” Gnem, 22, Stockton, California

“It’s just gut-wrenching,” Lincoln High School basketball coach Gary Greeno told CBS Sacramento. “I mean, it’s just heartbreaking.”

Future U.S. Navy Hospitalman Christopher “Bobby” Gnem was nowhere near the best player on his high school basketball team, but was nevertheless voted its captain.

“That shows how much respect his teammates had for him,” Greeno told the TV station. “These are the kind of kids that just make a huge difference in the world.”

Indeed, the lone sailor to lose his life in the accident made a difference. We pray for this sailor’s parents and fiancée, who is also a U.S. service member, according to CBS Sacramento. Please ease their pain, Lord.

Pfc. Jack Ryan Ostrovsky, 21, Bend, Oregon

On Memorial Day 2019, Pfc. Jack Ostrovsky hiked up the Pilot Butte lava dome in his hometown of Bend, Oregon. The young Marine wanted to honor American service members killed in war.

“I hope everyone is having a good Memorial Day and honoring those who couldn’t be here,” Pfc. Ostrovsky wrote. “God bless.”

May God also bless the family, friends and fellow Marines of a warrior who honored fallen war heroes by the way he lived and died. This proud patriot embodied all that is noble about our nation.

Lance Cpl. Chase D. Sweetwood, 19, Portland, Oregon

“You know, some people have the angel and the devil on their shoulder,” Niki Stockdale, aunt of Lance Cpl. Chase Sweetwood, told KUSI in San Diego, where the future Marine grew up. “He just always had that little angel on the side.”

The fallen Marine leaves behind his mother, Christiana Sweetwood, and three siblings. We are praying for them.

“His heart was so big and he just drew people to him,” Stockdale told the station. “I am so grateful for the life that he had.”

Cpl. Wesley A. Rodd, 23, Harris, Texas

Corporal Wesley Rodd was just 23 years old, but was also the oldest U.S. service member that the Pentagon said was killed in the July 30 training accident. According to a GoFundMe page created in his honor, Cpl. Rodd was not only a husband, but a brand new father.

Our hearts ache for this fallen Marine’s wife, Jamie, and their precious little boy. We pray that Cpl. Rodd’s son will grow up with his dad’s enduring spirit always shining brightly in his heart.

Cpl. Cesar A. Villanueva, 21, Riverside, California

Corporal Cesar Villanueva had just gotten married, according to CBS L.A.

“On behalf of the City Council and entire City of Riverside, I would like to express our heartfelt gratitude for Cpl. Villanueva’s services to our country and the service of all men and women in our military,” Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey posted on Facebook. “We will be working over the next few days to connect with the Villanueva family to offer support.”

“In the meantime, I hope that our entire community will join me in prayer for these families during this tragic time,” Mayor Bailey added.

United in Prayer

The Stream, its readers and countless others across our nation will undoubtedly join in those prayers, including for five rescued Marines and two others who were hospitalized after the accident while training for war, according to Stars & Stripes.

In addition to the injured, we ask the Lord to wrap His arms around all nine families of the fallen and everyone who knew and served with Lance Cpl. Guillermo Perez, Pfc. Bryan Baltierra, Lance Cpl. Marco “Andy” Barranco, Pfc. Evan Bath, Hospitalman Christopher “Bobby” Gnem, Pfc. Jack Ostrovsky, Lance Cpl. Chase Sweetwood, Cpl. Wesley Rodd and Cpl. Cesar Villanueva.

We will never forget these nine American heroes. They were blessings to not only their loved ones, but the country they so proudly served.


Tom Sileo is a contributing senior editor of The Stream. He is co-author of Three Wise Men, Brothers Forever, 8 Seconds of Courage and Fire in My Eyes. Follow Tom on Twitter @TSileo and The Stream at @Streamdotorg.

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