Christopher O’Connor – First Lieutenant, United States Marine Corps

Memorial Day was established to honor Americans who gave their lives in service of their country. Usually, it is associated with war dead. But this year, the nation has seen a rash of peacetime military casualties that have touched many Michigan families, and the hurt is no less deep than a war death.

Gaylord businessman James O'Connor, whose 26-year-old son died in March during a routine military exercise near Seoul, South Korea, agrees.

“In peaceful times, we're not programmed or accustomed to military deaths,” said O'Connor, 52, a former Marine himself.

“The loss of my son was a violent jolt. It was so unexpected.”

Marine First Lieutenant Christopher O'Connor died March 17 when the CH46 helicopter in which he was flying crashed into a rice paddy. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

“Chris was sharp and young. So much life ahead, he had so much going for him,” O'Connor said. “He was doing what he loved. He had just made aircraft commander. Life was good.”

First Lieutenant Christopher O'Connor
Age: 26
Service: 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit at Camp Pendleton, California. Hometown: Gaylord, Michigan
Cause: CH46 helicopter crash during exercise near Seoul, South Korea
Died: March 17, 1989

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