Community members gather outside Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, as the body of U.S. Marine Capt. Miguel Nava was brought home.

Community members gather outside Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, as the body of U.S. Marine Capt. Miguel Nava was brought home. (Screen capture from YouTube,

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (Tribune News Service) — Community members gathered by the roadside to pay their respects to U.S. Marine Capt. Miguel Nava as his body was brought back to Michigan on Monday afternoon.

Nava was killed in the line of duty, one of five U.S. Marines who went missing on Feb. 7 when their CH-53E “Super Stallion” helicopter crashed during a historic storm near San Diego, California.

On Monday, his body was flown to Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids. Nava, 28, was born in Traverse City and attended school in the Grand Rapids suburb of Comstock Park.

Jack and Crystal Kimble, whose son Travis played varsity football with Nava at Comstock Park High School, said Nava’s character will live on and transcend the tragedy.

“He was a leader who pushed himself to do the right thing. Even after he graduated, he would still come back to talk to and inspire the younger kids,” Crystal Kimble said. “Whether or not he’s here ... we’d be saying the same great things about him and who he was. I believe it’s beyond the fact that our son knew him, and it’s the proper thing to do ... come here to pay our respects. It’s such a shame, what a loss.”

Nava’s mother, Lisa Nava, was a longtime employee of the Comstock Park Schools district.

Four months ago, Nava and his wife, Ryann, welcomed a baby boy, Luca.

Chase Baker, a fellow Michigan Marine who went to high school with Nava, said he was a “friend to everyone.”

Marine Capt. Miguel Nava.

Marine Capt. Miguel Nava. (U.S. Marine Corps)

After graduating from high school in 2013, they both joined the Marines, and talked about connecting and sharing stories together while Baker was at the School of Infantry. “He truly was a great person.”

“It’s pretty heartbreaking that he’s gone,” Baker said. “I was telling my wife ... that I was looking forward to seeing him at our high school reunion to talk about our Marine Corps experiences.”

A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in 2017, Nava was commissioned in the Marine Corps that same year. He was promoted to the rank of captain in November 2021. His decorations include the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

Military officials reported that the helicopter vanished in stormy weather on Feb. 6 during the flight from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada to their base at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. The aircraft was discovered the next morning near the mountain community of Pine Valley.

The crash also claimed the lives of Lance Cpl. Donovan Davis, 21, of Olathe, Kansas, and Sgt. Alec Langen, 23, of Chandler, Ariz., both CH-53E helicopter crew chiefs; and Capt. Benjamin Moulton, 27, of Emmett, Idaho, and Capt. Jack Casey, 26, of Dover, N.H., both CH-53E helicopter pilots.

Local first responders, including the Cadillac Police Department, the Cadillac Fire Department, Grand Traverse County Dispatch and the Fife Lake Springfield Fire Department, coordinated community efforts to have people pay their respects as Nava’s body was brought home Monday.

GTC Dispatch kept the local community updated on the route. Fife Lake Springfield Fire Department changed its Facebook profile picture to a photo of Nava.

The white hearse carrying Nava’s body made its way down Sixth Street in Traverse City with a Michigan State Police car leading the procession, followed by three SUVs, another state police car and a Traverse City Fire Department fire truck.

The first responders in the procession saluted as the casket draped with an American flag was carried inside the Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home. The funeral home flew both the Marine Corps flag and the American flag at half-mast in his honor, and a United States Coast Guard helicopter circled the area.

Several community members stood outside the funeral home.

A friend of Nava’s from high school who lives in Traverse City remembered Nava as “one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.”

“Just one of those guys that always brought a smile to the room,” he said.

A private viewing is scheduled Friday morning for his loved ones only. Funeral services and the burial on Saturday will be private as well, Reynolds-Jonkhoff confirmed.

Joshua Hiday, from the Marine Corps League, Yagle Brothers Detachment No. 165 in Interlochen, said they are planning to line the roads with flags from the church on Secor Road to Memorial Gardens Cemetery on Veterans Drive on Saturday.

“We just ask that the community be patient and respect the wishes of the family and be there on Saturday with us as he drives by to his final resting,” Hiday said. “From there, I think we’re reminded that tragedy can happen at any time and not to take anything for granted.”

“Veterans in the area are reminded of their conflicts that they’ve been in and the loss that they’ve had, and obviously now we have Captain Nava,” Hiday said. “We’re trying to respect the family and, at the same time, be the patriots that we are here in northern Michigan.”

John Burri, a Gold Star father whose son was killed in Iraq, was among those who came to honor Nava Monday.

“I know the pain that the family is going through, for the loss of their hero, for we too have lost our own son. I wanted to be here to let them know they’re not alone.”

A public memorial service for Nava will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at Comstock Park High School. Friends and community members who wish to pay their respects are encouraged to attend.

(c)2024 The Record-Eagle (Traverse City, Mich.)

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