Aurora woman died 'helping people and being a Marine,' brother says
The family of an Aurora Marine who was killed last week while conducting earthquake relief operations in Nepal said Sunday she died doing what she loved
Cpl. Sara A. Medina, 23, a combat photographer with Marine Corps Installations Pacific, Okinawa, Japan, was killed with five other U.S. service members in a May 12 helicopter crash east of Kathmandu, according to a Defense Department statement.
"She died how she lived, helping people and being a Marine," said her brother, Luis Medina, outside the Aurora home where he and his sister lived with their mother, Cecilia Lopez.
Luis Medina said his sister knew she wanted to be a Marine for years and signed up in the ROTC program at East Aurora High School. She enlisted after her graduation in 2010 and spent time serving in South Korea, South America and Okinawa, where she lived with her fiance and fellow Marine, Devon Anderson.
"She liked to travel," Luis Medina said. "She liked to help other people to find a better future."
Luis Medina said his family first got word that there was trouble on Tuesday when three Marine officers walked down the driveway of their family home and told them that his sister's helicopter had crashed and all aboard were missing.
"We felt very desperate," he said. "We thought, maybe she is alive, maybe she jumped from the helicopter and is somewhere alive on the mountain."
The family learned Saturday that his sister's body had been found at the crash site, he said.
Also killed in the crash of the UH-1Y Huey helicopter were Capt. Dustin R. Lukasiewicz of Nebraska; Capt. Christopher L. Norgren of Kansas; Sgt. Ward M. Johnson IV of Florida; Sgt. Eric M. Seaman of California; and Lance Cpl. Jacob A. Hug of Arizona, along with two Nepalese soldiers.
The U.S. service members killed were part of Joint Task Force 505, which arrived in Nepal April 29 to conduct humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations in the wake of a 7.9-magnitude earthquake April 25. The helicopter crashed about 8 miles north of Charikot, Nepal, while supporting casualty evacuations following a second earthquake of magnitude 7.3 that occurred May 12, the defense department reported.
Gov. Bruce Rauner issued a statement Sunday calling Medina's death "a loss for the state of Illinois."
"Cpl. Medina's courage and dedication to serving and protecting others makes her a role model for all of us," Rauner said. "She will never be forgotten. Diana and I extend our deepest sympathies to her family, and the families of her fellow fallen comrades, during this time of mourning."
According to the Marine Corps Times, before deploying to Nepal, Sara Medina had photographed Marines in South Korea, the Philippines, Japan, Australia and the U.S. Some of her work can be viewed online at www.dvidshub.net/portfolio/1188007/sara-medina#. VVkMS5PciTo.
In a media statement from East Aurora High School, Grace Millar-Laxton, an ESL teacher who taught Sara Medina for two years, said the future Marine showed tremendous brains and potential.
"I just knew something about Sara. If you've been in the teaching game for a while, you can spot it," Millar-Laxton said. "Sara was the kind of girl who was up for a challenge, and I saw that early on."
After she graduated in 2010 and joined the Marines, Sara Medina would come back to the high school in uniform to tell students how important it was to get a good education. In her most recent visit, she spoke to a teacher about how, through her military service, she was seeing parts of the world she had only dreamed about in high school.
Luis Medina said his sister was kind and loving. When their family moved to Aurora from Durango, Mexico, in 2005, it didn't take long for her to make many close friends.
"I want to thank all of her friends because they made her life very happy," Luis Medina said. "I know they are feeling the same pain as me because they loved her like a sister."