A graduate of Staples High School in Westport is among the seven Marines killed during a training exercise at Hawthorne Army Depot, Nevada, according to local news reports and officials.
On his blog, 06880, Dan Woog identified Roger Muchnick, a 2008 graduate of Staples High School who served two tours in Afghanistan, as one of the Marines killed.
“This is a sad day for Westport where Roger grew up. At Staples, he was well known as a popular football and lacrosse player and was well liked by his friends, teachers, and coaches," Westport First Selectman Gordon Joseloff said in a statement.
Muchnick, who was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, according to his biography on the Eastern Connecticut State University web site, was 23.
His grandfather, Jerome Muchnick, of Philadelphia, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Roger grew up in Westport, served in Afghanistan and was thinking about going to college after the Marines.
KCRA reports that a mortar round exploded inside a firing tube as the Marines were conducting mountain training exercises and the accident prompted the Marine Corps to stop using some mortar shells until an investigation is completed.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Lance Cpl. Muchnick was a mortarman assigned to 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment.
“I send my deepest condolences to the Muchnick family, the Westport and Staples High School communities, and the families of the six other brave Marines killed Monday during a tragic training accident in Nevada. Our heroic service men and women risk their lives on and off the battlefield every day so that we may enjoy our freedom and liberty, and they deserve our utmost gratitude,” Blumenthal said in a statement.
Westport News reports that Muchnick played on the Staples football team.
The school held a moment of silence at 8:20 a.m.
Muchnick went on to ECSU, where he played football and lacrosse.
Justin Axel, Muchnick's college lacrosse coach, remembers Roger as someone who made a positive impression on everyone he met.
"Roger was such an incredible kid. He played with so much passion and heart. And he was always smiling. That was the good thing about Roger, day in and day out he brought a smile to your face," Axel said.
ECSU is planning a special tribute to Muchnick and the lacrosse team will dedicate its next home game to him.
"We'll be honoring him by wearing his number in our helmets for the rest of the season," Axel said.
Axel said he heard last night that his former player had died.
"To hear that news was just absolutely shocking," he said.
The ESCU community is now in mourning.
"I thought the world of him and what he went on to do for our country was absolutely incredible. We really lost a great person in Roger and our hearts are deeply saddened with this event," Axel said.
Roger's parents divorced a couple years ago and his grandfather, Jerome Muchnick, of Philadelphia, told the Hour that Rogers' father moved from Westport to North Carolina a few years ago and his mother moved to Florida.
Joseloff said the community is in shock.
“He is the second Staples graduate on active duty with the Marines to die in an accident in little more than three years, and our community once again is in shock," he said. “Our hearts go out to the Muchnick family and friends. We deeply share their loss.”
Muchnick joined the Marine Corps in June 2010 and was promoted to his current rank in May 2011, according to Blumenthal. Awards he received include the Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, and NATO Medal-ISAF Afghanistan.
Funeral services have not been announced.