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New Windsor resident among 16 servicemen killed in crash

Sixteen U.S. Military Servicemen who died in a Mississippi plane crash, including one from the area, were remembered Saturday night at a memorial service.

Gunnery Sgt. Mark A. Hopkins, 34, of New Windsor, was among those who died in the July 10 crash. He leaves behind a wife, Patricia Hopkins, and three children: Wyatt, Abby and Lewis. The couple had been married in Montgomery’s Goodwill Church and remained active in the church community, along with Patricia’s parents Jim and Mildred Ferguson.

“Pastor Josh, Pastor José, and the entire leadership of Goodwill Church join me in offering our deepest condolences to the families, friends, and colleagues impacted by this tragic loss,” said Goodwill Pastor John Torres in a statement posted on the church’s Facebook page. “God’s Word promises that the Lord heals the brokenhearted and is near to those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).”

Hopkins was part of the Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 452 (VMGR-452) based out of Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh.. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps when he was 18 and served as a navigator. “Hoppy,” as he was referred to by his Marine brothers, was based in Okinawa, Japan with VMGR-152 from 2004-06.

“Mark was a man of the Bible whose faith in Christ shaped every area of his life,” read the church’s Facebook post. “ Mark was a genuine, creative, compassionate man who exuded happiness and brightened every room he walked into. He loved God, his family, and reading his Bible. An adventurous, genuine people-person, Mark had many talents and hobbies including playing guitar, running, snowboarding, hiking, and surfing. He was an avid traveler and especially enjoyed spur-of-the-moment road trips — there was never a dull moment with him. He was a deeply spiritual man who shared his faith with others and lived his life to its fullest. He is most known for his unforgettable, radiant smile — he was always happy and had a welcoming presence about him. He had a knack for always bringing out the best in others.”

Also killed in the crash of the KC-130T aircraft were: : Caine M. Goyette, Sean E. Elliot, Brendan C. Johnson, Joshua M. Snowden, Julian M. Kevianne, Owen J. Lennon, Daniel I. Baldassare, Collin J. Schaaff, Robert H. Cox, William J. Kundrat, Chad E. Jenson, Talon R. Leach, Joesph J. Murray, Dietrich A. Schmieman and Ryan M. Lohrey.

Schaaff, Baldassare, Lennon, Kevianne, Snowden, Johnson, Hopkins, Elliot and Goyette all held stations at the Stewart Air National Guard Base., six others were stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina as was the one Navy Corpsman on the aircraft. The aircraft departed from the Stewart Air National Guard Base before arriving in North Carolina, only to crash in Mississippi en route to California.

In wake of the tragedy, a vigil was held Saturday by the Rock Tavern Unitarian Universalists Congregation Members of the community, public officials, grieving families and organizations such as the Red Cross and the Hudson Valley Honors Flight were present at the July 16 ceremony.

“We come together this evening to remember, and to mourn,” said congregation member Terri Pahucki. “Shared sympathy and understanding binds us together.”

Held in the liberal religious community sanctuary, the ceremony, although well-attended, maintained an intimate and unifying atmosphere. Reverend Chris J. Antal called upon 16 members of the congregation who felt so moved to participate in the ceremony. Those 16 were each given a white candle, lit in memory of one service member who passed.

Between the sounds of a tibetan singing bowl, sniffles from the crowd and footsteps up to the platform, Antal called out the names of the service men, assigning each candle bearer to represent one of the deceased.

Antal guided the congregation to call upon their chosen higher power for meditation and prayer. As Antal asked these powers to bring peace upon grieving families, the congregation replied with “hear our prayers.”

“As a community, we have to come together to share our pain just as we share our healing,” Antal said. “Ritual allows people to come into a space where physical movement and routine helps them move through the grief process.”

By Melanie Zerah

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