East Grand Forks family mourns death of second Marine sonby Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Those with loved ones fighting in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq know the violence can claim lives, but families and friends' worries usually subside when troops make it back to the United States.
That's made Marine Cpl. Ryan Pape's death last week in a training accident in California harder to accept, said the Rev. Charles "Bud" Johnson, pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church near East Grand Forks.
"When the boys are deployed to Iraq and in harm's way every day, you live with that tension," said Johnson, who led Pape's confirmation class at the church and is good friends with Pape's parents, Ron and Shar. The Papes live in East Grand Forks and have a potato farm north of the city.
Ryan Pape, 23, was Ron and Shar's second son to become a Marine, and also the second to die in a non-combat related accident.
Ryan's older brother, Riley, was killed in 2005 in a motorcycle accident in California. Ryan was just graduating from high school at the time. Both Ryan and Riley had served in Iraq.
Johnson, who like the Papes has three sons who have served in the military, said the Papes and their greater community are in a lot of pain, perhaps partly because families let their guard down when their loved ones are away from combat.
The Papes were looking forward to Ryan coming home for Christmas and had already secured plane tickets for him, Johnson said.
"This just isn't right," Johnson said Monday. "When you have training exercises like this, you don't think about the possibility of something going wrong."
The Marines have said Pape was killed while conducting a nighttime low-level static line parachute training jump on Thursday near Camp Pendleton, Calif. Pape and five other Marines were jumping from a C-130 aircraft into a training drop zone when the accident happened, said 1st Lt. Kenneth Kunze, a Marine spokesman. The other five landed safely.
Investigators haven't yet said whether Pape's parachute failed to deploy or whether something else happened, and Kunze said it could take a few weeks for the investigation to be complete. The reconnaissance Marines have suspended their parachute training jumps until they know what went wrong, he said.
The Marines haven't said much about the training accident, other than that Pape was involved in a low-level, static line parachute training exercise when he died. A message left Monday for Camp Pendleton officials was not immediately returned.
Johnson said Pape's death was under investigation, and he expected it might be a while before family and friends were given more details.
Mike McNamara, a Grand Forks City Council member and Marine who served in Iraq with Riley Pape, said Ryan's decision to join the Marines came right after his older brother's death.
McNamara said some parents might have tried to protect their other sons after losing one by discouraging them from joining the military, but not the Papes.
"They were completely supportive, because that's what he wanted and that was his dream," McNamara said, adding that Ryan's death was a huge loss for the family. "To go through the whole thing again is terribly sad."
Funeral arrangements were being made and a Facebook memorial was created. The Facebook page included dozens of photos of Ryan, including some from the last time many saw him --- as best man at his older brother Ross's wedding in July 2009.
Johnson said Ryan Pape will be remembered as a driven, confident young man who cared deeply for family and friends.
Pape had recently re-enlisted in the Marines and was completing a higher level of recognizance training. He had already been to the Marines' schools for scuba diving, sniper training and parachute jumping.
"He had a path carved out for himself, and he was going to make sure that he had accomplished everything he set out to do," Johnson said.