An Amazing Story of Sacrifice

When you walk around Arlington Cemetery you can’t help but be stuck by the sheer number of gravesites and each one a story of heroism and sacrifice. Purple hearts, bronze starts, silver stars and on.

A couple of weeks ago I caught a story of a local veteran, Ed Krysa,  who had a ceremony at Arlington. As a footnote in the article was this sentence:

“They also paid their respects to U.S. Marine Capt. Seth R. Michaud whose burial site is only a few hundred yards away from Krysa’s final resting place.”

I looked up the story of Captain Michaud and here was a young man who graduated from Hudson High and the Naval Academy. He was tragically killed in a friendly fire accident in 2003. He left behind a wife, young son, and a family that was obviously devastated by the loss. Somehow, I had not heard of his death, even though this was a young man from my home town.

While visiting my parents and a few other sites, I stopped by his gravesite. Here’s some information of  Captain Michaud’s amazing story.

Capt. Seth R. Michaud, U.S.M.C (NCD)
Boston Herald, June 24, 2003

Hudson Marine killed in exercise

Capt. Seth R. Michaud Naval Academy Photo

An errant B-52 bomb struck near and mortally wounded a Hudson Marine captain, while he watched a routine training exercise from atop a ridge on the Godoria Range in northeastern Africa Sunday, military officals and the man’s father said.

Seth R. Michaud – who leaves behind his wife of four years, Karen, and their 18-month-old son, Ian – was standing outside his CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter when the bomb exploded, his father, Francis Michaud said from the family home yesterday. A friend and fellow pilot gave first aid and CPR, but the 27-year-old Michaud later died at the base hospital.

“He died flying, doing what he loved, so that helped,” Francis Michaud said. “We’re very proud of him.”

The friend who tried to save Michaud will fly with his body back to Delaware in the next few days, Francis Michaud said.

The Marine Corps said Michaud was killed, eight others injured and two copters destroyed after the B-52 completed a simulated aerial bombardment mission and dropped nine M117 general-purpose bombs over the range off the northern coast of Djibouti.

Seven of those injured were in “stable” condition at the Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany.

“There are a lot of questions they’re trying to answer,” Francis Michaud said. “They’re not sure how that happened.”

Michaud, a graduate of Hudson High School and the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, left for Djibouti on April 9 with the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa, set up last year to lead the war on terrorism in that region.

Michaud, who was based in North Carolina, called his parents Saturday. They learned of his death the next night.

“He told us about the exercise that was going to take place. I knew there would be live ammunition,” said Francis Michaud, an Air Force Academy graduate who flew during the Vietnam era.

Michaud, the oldest of three, knew he wanted to fly in junior high school, his father said. “As a high school freshman, I actually took him to the Air Force Academy for my reunion there. He started to get serious about it after that.”

Francis Michaud said his 19-year-old daughter, Samantha, is taking the news the hardest. Michaud also leaves his brother, Ethan and mother, Karen.

Michaud’s wife learned of her husband’s death while visiting her family in Wooster, Ohio.

Friends and family mourn Hudson Marine

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Marine Captain Seth Michaud, who was killed last month by friendly fire in Africa, was remembered in his hometown yesterday as a doting husband and father, a gifted student and pilot and a generous man.

Michaud, a 27-year-old helicopter commander, died in a military exercise in Djibouti when a B-52 dropped nine M117, general-purpose bombs during a practice mission. The bombs hit near troops and two Marine CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters parked adjacent to the bombing range, officials said. His was the only death in the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, which had begun training in counter-terrorism in Africa in November.

Nearly 200 friends and family filled St. Michael Church on Manning Street last night to pay their respects to Michaud’s family: his parents, Karen and Francis Michaud; his siblings Ethan and Samantha; and his wife, Karen Marie, and their 18-month-old son, Ian.

Michaud’s photograph in his Marine uniform, as well as his boots, jumpsuit and hat were on display as reminders of his life in service to his country. Michaud was buried earlier this month at Arlington National Cemetery.

Francis Michaud’s fond memories of his eldest son began well before he joined the U.S. Marines or studied at the U.S. Naval Academy.

“I remember Seth as a boy. The books we read, the awesome spaceships we made with Legos,” the soccer games and campfires on the lake, he said.

Besides being a standout student, Michaud was an avid athlete, Francis said. He was captain of the high school varsity soccer team his senior year, a member of the ski club, a wrestler his sophomore year, and a member of the track team. He was also an Eagle Scout who loved the outdoors.

“You were a wonderful role model to Ethan and Samantha,” Francis said. The brothers went from fighting to becoming best friends in high school and Samantha chose a college in Virginia to be closer to her brother, Francis said.

When Michaud graduated from Hudson High School in 1994, he went to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., from where he graduated in 1998. Matt Burke, one of Michaud’s best childhood friends, described him as “one of the most upstanding kids you’d ever meet.”

Michaud was never the same after a friend introduced he and his future wife Karen on the ski slopes of Colorado when the two were in college.

The two were married in 1999 and when Ian was born, Michaud made his whole life his family, whether playing with Ian or making sure to set aside “cuddle time” with his wife at their home near Marine base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C.

“You were a dedicated officer, a strong pilot and a proud Marine,” Francis Michaud said.

Seth adopted the role of father quickly, though his own father at first wondered how he would have time for parenthood.

“You were so proud to be a daddy. All of the phone calls and stories were about Ian, there were even more of those than about flying.”

Francis remembered how his son had regretfully said goodbye to his wife and his son when he left for Africa in April, expecting he might not see them for a year.

“As a young man you were full of integrity, a person who made a difference in our world,” Francis said. “You are my hero and I know you are with us today with that grin.”

Michaud was a gift from God who taken from this earth earlier than anyone could have expected, the Rev. Kenneth LeBlanc said in his homily.

LeBlanc urged friends to not only pray for Michaud but also for his family, who will have to spend every gathering, every anniversary or holiday or birthday, without him.

“A question that has been on all our minds, ‘Why?’

“We don’t know,” LeBlanc said. “We’ve been cheated of a life that brought love and hope and life.”

The grief that follows such a loss “can leave us numbed, shocked, touched with the deepest emotion, like someone has torn out our hearts.”

But there is hope.

“Our faith…enables us to hope. Although we have questions, doubts, anger, it enables us to continue the journey. We are a people of hope and promise,” LeBlanc said.

“(Faith) was as much a part of Seth’s life as his skin,” LeBlanc said. “The love of God, the love of country, were the foundations of his life.”

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Captain Seth Michaud, a Marine helicopter pilot from Hudson, Massachusetts, who was killed in a “friendly fire” incident while on duty in Africa last month, was scheduled to be buried in a private ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery this morning.

Michaud, 27, was to be remembered with full military honors in the ceremony in Virginia attended by his wife, Karen Marie, their 18-month-old son, Ian, as well as parents Francis and Karen and his siblings Ethan and Samantha. A local memorial service will be held at St. Michael Church in Hudson on July 11. Also, a memorial fund in honor of Captain Michaud has been established for his son.

Michaud was a 1994 graduate of Hudson High School where he was known as a dedicated student and athlete before attending the U.S. Naval Academy. He was killed in the nation of Djibouti on June 22 during a practice mission with his Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, which had begun training in Africa in November. Michaud was on the ground when bombs dropped from a B-52 hit near troops and two Marine CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters parked adjacent the bombing range.

The ceremony was to be held at 8:45, with Michaud’s casket covered in an American flag and led on one of the cemetery’s three caissons, a horse-drawn hearse built in 1918. The burial ceremony called for Michaud’s casket to be accompanied by seven horses and a six-person casket team, as well as an escort platoon, a bugler and a military band. A seven-member firing party was scheduled to fire three volleys in his honor. Michaud’s burial was one of 28 burials at the cemetery today.

The memorial fund to benefit young Ian R. Michaud was set up at the Hudson Savings Bank. Donations may be made to: Capt. Seth Michaud Memorial Fund, c/o Hudson Savings Bank, 42 Main St., Hudson, MA 01749, Attn: Claudette.

A memorial Mass will be held at 6 p.m. on Friday, July 11 at St. Michael Church, with a reception afterwards in the parish center.

North Carolina-Based Marine Killed In Africa Accident

23 June 2003

A North Carolina-based Marine was killed when bombs dropped from a B-52 landed near forces that were training in northeastern Africa.

U.S. Central Command said Captain Seth Michaud of Hudson, Mass., was killed Monday. He was assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461, which is based at Marine Corps Air Station New River.

Centcom said Michaud was the first casualty since the task force left Camp Lejeune in November for Djibouti.

The mission of the task force is to intercept or disrupt terrorist operatives.

Eight U.S. service members were wounded and seven were hospitalized for treatment of more severe injuries. All seven are stable and will be transported to Landstuhl Army Medical Center, Germany.

Centcom said the B-52 had completed a simulated aerial bombardment mission, then dropped nine M-117 general-purpose bombs. They hit near the troops and two Marine C-H-53-E Super Stallion helicopters near the range.

Marine pilot from Massachusetts killed in Africa accident

23 June 2003

Marine pilot from Hudson, Massachusetts, was killed Sunday when bombs dropped from a B-52 plane landed near forces that were training in northeastern Africa.

Captain Seth R. Michaud, 27, was killed. He was assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron-461, based at New River Marine Corps Air Station in North Carolina, according to U.S. Central Command.

His father, Francis P. Michaud of Hudson, said his son was deployed to Djibouti in April as part of a counterterrorism operation. He described his son as a serious student with a photographic memory, an excellent helicopter pilot who loved flying, and a devoted husband and father.

”I think his biggest problem with going to Djibouti was leaving his family, but he felt it was part of his duty,” his father said. ”Family was very important to him. His wife and son meant everything to him that was his world.”

”We’re very proud of him. He meant everything to us,” he said.

A 1998 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Michaud chose the Marines over the Navy and was certified as a helicopter pilot in December, 2000. His father said that his son had recently been promoted to helicopter aircraft commander.

”The Marines were more challenging, and he thought it was a smaller, closer-knit group, a family,” Francis Michaud said from his Hudson home, about 30 miles west of Boston. ”That’s what he wanted.”

Centcom said Michaud was the first casualty since the task force left Camp Lejeune in November for the African nation. The mission of the task force is to intercept or disrupt terrorist operatives.

Eight U.S. service members were wounded and seven were transported to Bouffard Hospital in Djibouti for treatment of more severe injuries. They were in stable condition Monday and being transported to Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany.

”That others were injured is terrible in and of itself. Unfortunately Seth was one that didn’t make it. We’ve struggled with that,” Francis Michaud said of the incident. ”It’s bad enough when it’s enemy fire. When it’s friendly fire you just wonder why why couldn’t this have been avoided.”

About 50 personnel from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa were participating in a training exercise that involved the coordination of aerial bombardment missions. Personnel on the ground communicate with pilots during these types of missions.

This exercise was the fourth of its kind since CJTF-HOA’s arrival in December and involved a U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress aircraft from a forward operating base in the U.S. Central Command area of operations.

Centcom said the B-52 had completed a simulated aerial bombardment mission, then dropped nine M117 general-purpose bombs, which hit near the troops and two Marine CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters parked adjacent to the range.

The two helicopters, which had been used to transport troops and equipment to the range, were destroyed.

Michaud is survived by his wife, Karen Marie Michaud, and 18-month-old son, Ian, his parents, Francis and Karen Michaud of Hudson, and a brother and sister.

June 24, 2003

In the words of his father, “he died doing what he wanted to do.” But there is added sadness to the death of a Hudson Marine pilot, as he was killed by U.S. bombs.

Captain Seth Michaud was killed when bombs dropped from a B-52 aircraft landed off-course course on the Horn of Africa in the nation of Djibouti, reported Newscenter 5’s Jack Harper.

On Chestnut Street in Hudson, they have cleared the center piece from the dining room table to make way for a few glimpses of the life of another fallen Marine. “We’re obviously very proud of him. Proud of not only what he accomplished, but also for who he was as a person,” said the Marine’s father, Francis Michaud.

He had it all — an 18-month-old son Ian, a loving family and a wonderful wife. Michaud, 27, was living his dream. A Marine pilot, he had everything going for him until Sunday, when the call came from overseas.

“It’s sad. There are a lot of unanswered questions, and I think that will take time,” said Michaud.

“It’s part of war — can’t get away from it. I mean, you hate that it happens and no matter what, it’s part of war,” said mother Karen Michaud.

Michaud was in Djibouti fighting the war on terror.

“At times he would say we can either fight from here or fight from there — he’d rather fight them there than here with his family,” she continued.

“He gave everything he had to his Marine Corps,” said Michaud’s father.

It’s not easy for his parents to remember back when he was a kid growing up in Hudson. He always wanted to fly. He excelled at the Naval Academy and went on to flight school. He should have been home again in three months.

“I think the Marines have a saying, ‘Gone but not forgotten,’ and for us he’ll never be forgotten, obviously. He’ll always be in our hearts and close to us,” said Michaud’s father.

Michaud’s wife and son are with her family in Ohio. Later this week, both families will be united at Arlington National Cemetery, where he’ll be laid to rest.

VETERAN SERVICE DATES: 01/01/1998 – 06/22/2003
DATE OF BIRTH: 01/02/1976
DATE OF DEATH: 06/22/2003

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