Devastated parents mourn young USS Essex Marine lost at sea
By MAX SULLIVAN | The Portsmouth Herald | Published: August 23, 2018
HAMPTON, N.H. (Tribune News Service) — A truck pulled up to the Curriers' driveway, and out stepped two U.S. Marines, who walked together toward the family's front door.
Kathy Currier opened the door and asked right away if her son Jonathan Currier, a Marine Corps corporal deployed at sea, was in a helicopter crash. Jon was a crew chief on a CH-53E Super Stallion aboard the USS Essex for a months-long deployment.
Kathy did not expect to learn Jon was missing from his ship, believed to have gone overboard.
"I knew it wasn't good," Kathy said of the day the Marines came to her home following Jon's Aug. 9 disappearance. "I never dreamed he would go over."
Jon, 21, a Hampton, N.H. native and 2015 Winnacunnet High School graduate, was declared dead by the military Aug. 17 after a five-day search over 13,000 square miles. The ship was in the Mindanao Sea when he went missing, and the Curriers were told an investigation is ongoing into what led to his disappearance, his mother said.
Family and friends remembered Jon this week as a kind friend and committed serviceman dedicated to his country who loved his life working on a helicopter. He was also a WHS Marine Corps JROTC cadet, Eagle Scout and altar server at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish in Hampton.
Jon, who went to boot camp three years ago this week, was part of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit based out of Miramar, California, from which his ship left for a 7- to 9-month deployment. Jon had joined the Marines to spend time seeing the world rather than going straight to college. He had his first choice for a job as a helicopter crew chief, and he was looking at becoming an instructor when he died, his father said.
"He loved being in the aircraft," said Justin Roberts, who grew up close friends with Jon and also graduated from WHS in 2015. "He was determined to be the best at what he did at any point in his life."
Jon is remembered by family and friends as kindhearted, a natural leader and hard worker. He loved sports growing up, playing soccer, basketball, flag football and swimming. He also had a never-ending love of Lego models, still building them as an adult, often messaging his brother Collin about his most recent Lego purchase.
"He and a group of friends would, like a bunch of geeks - they're sitting around drinking beer, building Legos," recalled Chris Currier, his father.
Lt. Col. Michael Antonio, WHS's JROTC instructor, said Jon was a strong leader while a cadet for four years in the JROTC program, always willing to help younger cadets. He also said Jon contributed to the program by building storage shelves to go into the JROTC building for his Eagle Scout project.
Antonio said it was impressive that Jon became a corporal and crew chief in just three years.
"He loved the Marine Corps," said Antonio. "He was a kid that was committed to service and committed to serving his country."
Chris said his son's interest in the Marines became serious when he was 16 or 17. It surprised his parents, who had never pushed him in that direction despite his father and grandfather having served in the Air Force. He asked his parents to sign a waiver allowing him to join before he turned 18, but they told him to wait until he could join on his own.
Jon originally wanted to be in the infantry but was encouraged by his family to take the military's aptitude test, the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. The results showed he was suited for jobs that require strong suits in mathematics and physics, his mother said.
"He scored very high," Kathy said. "He actually had his choice of what he wanted in the Marines."
Chris said Jon was undecided on whether he would stay in the Marines for a career. On top of his work in the helicopter, he enjoyed his friends, where he was stationed and his opportunities to travel. Still, his father said, there were parts of the military that were less appealing, and he told his mother the deployment with the USS Essex would help him decide how long he would stay in the Marines.
Jon last saw his family in June for a week that included Father's Day, his 21st birthday and trip to Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts, a place he and his brother visited when they were younger. Jon and Collin, a history teacher, talked about the ships and reminisced about their childhood and the people they grew up with, their father said.
Jon had limited contact with his family when he went to sea, sending emails to them when he was allowed. The last was sent the Monday before he went missing, asking his parents to send him a copy of Microsoft PowerPoint, a requirement for becoming an instructor.
"He seemed pretty enthusiastic," his father said of becoming an instructor. "It's a step up."
The day the Curriers learned of Jon's disappearance, Kathy and Collin went to personally tell Roberts the devastating news.
"They came in, and instantly you knew something was wrong," Roberts said. "They told us what happened and there wasn't a dry eye in the room."
Roberts then called Ryan Saint Cyr, who with Roberts and Jon made an inseparable trio of friends growing up. Saint Cyr said he was at work at The Winner's Circle in Salisbury, Massachusetts, as a kitchen manager, when he got a call from Roberts telling him what happened.
"Ten, 15 minutes later, it just kind of all hit me at once," Saint Cyr said. "I had to leave."
Roberts and Saint Cyr said Jon was one of the kindest people they have known and among the funniest. Roberts said he cannot remember a time with Jon where they weren't "giggling, laughing or just losing it."
Jon's name will be considered for engraving on American Legion Post 35's Global War on Terrorism monument located in front of the legion hall on High Street, according to Post 35 Cmdr. Berkley Bennett. The monument honors Granite State servicemen and women killed in the line of duty since Sept. 11, 2001.
Jon's father, Chris Currier, said the weeks since Jon's disappearance have been a "roller-coaster" with constant support from friends and family, as well as daily contact from the Marine Corps. Kathy said she is taking her mourning "one day at a time," but has appreciated family frequently gathering to share memories of "the good times" with Jon.
"I was really proud to be his mother," Kathy said. "He was a really great kid."