U.S. Navy SEAL from New Hampshire dies during military parachute training

Last modified: 1/13/2015 11:56:47 PM
Inside the Marston family home on Auburn Street, the living room was full of people – aunts and uncles, longtime neighbors, former coaches, U.S. Navy officials and TV cameramen.

“You’d get home from work, after a full day of work – what would you guys do?” Nancy Marston said to her husband, Bill. The group listened, congregated on the couches and the floor.

“We’d hit the batting cages,” he said.

“Or even just in the backyard,” she added.

“We’d always throw,” he continued. “We spent hours and hours and hours.”

They looked for him in old memories and old stories, but the person who brought them together was the one person missing. Blake Marston, a U.S. Navy SEAL, died Saturday during military parachute training in Florida. An investigation into the accident is ongoing.

He was 31.

“Throw another pail, Dad, throw another pail of balls,” his father remembered. “We’re not done, Dad.”

Marston’s family and friends busied themselves in their grief yesterday, remembering out loud a man with a kind heart and a quiet confidence. Many remembered him as a talented athlete; he grew up in Bedford and played sports from an early age, beginning in Bedford Little League and later playing in the World Series with the New England Championship Babe Ruth team.

“He was willing to put in the time to be a better player every time he went out, and he expected that of those he played with,” Bill Marston said.

Marston graduated from the Derryfield School in Manchester in 2001, and then studied criminal justice and played baseball at Stonehill College. He completed his training to be a Navy SEAL in 2009, and served in the Navy for six years.

Nancy Marston always worried about his safety in the military, but she remembered a group of doctors who visited her church to talk about their missionary work in Afghanistan.

“I said, ‘Help me out here, because you’ve said all this great work you’re doing. But I have a son, and I don’t really want him there,’ ” she said. “And they said to me . . . ‘We couldn’t be doing the work that we do, if it weren’t for him.’

“It helped me.”

His girlfriend, Christine Clarke, sat among the family, with her hands wrapped around a coffee mug.

“When he walked into the room, he had such a presence,” Clarke said. “Everyone sat a little straighter. Everyone was a little more aware. You knew how strong and confident he was, you would feel it. And you wanted to be like that.”

Clarke remembered when he called her grandmother to say thank you for a Christmas present. She remembered the three-hour drive between them, the long hours in the car that were worth the visit. She remembered their first date, when they took a ferry to Washington, D.C.

“We had lunch and lost track of time and missed the ferry. . . . But we both were joking around, ‘We’re not sick of each other yet,’ ” she said. “We immediately realized how similar we were.”

Her eyes were blue and sad.

“We laughed a lot,” she said. “We laughed all the time.”

The group in the Marstons’ living room laughed together when his dad remembered an anecdote from one of Blake’s friends – “When Blake took off his shirt in the crossfit gym, all the other guys put theirs back on,” he said.

And everyone was quiet when his father remembered asking his son what he would do after his career with the SEALs.

“He said, ‘You know, Dad, I can’t possibly imagine being in any other profession where I have such respect and love for my teammates,’ ” Bill said.

“He wasn’t only proud of being a SEAL, but he was also very, very proud of all his brothers.”

Outside the Marston family home on Auburn Street, an American flag fluttered against a gray sky.

Services

Blake Marston will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. A celebration of his life will be held at the Bedford Presbyterian Church on Saturday at 10:30 a.m., and visiting hours will be held Friday from 3 to 7 p.m. at Bennett Funeral Home in Concord.



(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)




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