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Father remembers Mendota Marine that was killed during a helicopter crash

Posted by wlpo on September 23, 2011

Earlier this week you heard about the Marine from Mendota who died during a training exercise at Camp Pendleton, California.  27 year old First Lt. Thomas Heitmann and another Marine were killed when their Cobra attack helicopter crashed Monday.

Thomas Heitmann Senior took a moment to share memories of his son with AM 1220 WLPO.   Heitmann believes his son’s interest in flying started when he was a kid and would go to an air show with his dad every summer.

After graduating from St. Bede Academy in 2002 where he ran track and played football, the young Heitmann spent a semester at Sauk Valley Community College.  Eventually he would continue his education at Valley Forge Military Junior College in Pennsylvania and at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach Florida.  There Heitmann joined the ROTC, earning a national naval scholarship, and was commissioned as a LT. with the Marines after graduating.

Heitmann received his wings in April, finishing first in his battalion.

The young Heitmann had told his parents he would take them for a ride whenever he could get the chance to return home and rent a plane, but sadly the chance never arrived.

The older Heitmann says his son loved being part of a family.  Heitmann says his son had a tender heart, million dollar smile, and died doing what he dreamed of doing.

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