Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort is remembering one of its own today after a fatal accident earlier this week. They held a memorial for Capt. Derek Nichols who died on Monday when his F/A-18 crashed.
Capt. Nichols may have been known as "the Canadian" by some of his fellow pilots, but for the past three years he had very much become part of the Beaufort family while there on exchange.
Several hundred Marines turned out for the memorial service, along with dozens of Canadians who made the long trek south on Canada Day, of all times.
"He didn't allow a lot of people to get close to him, but those of us who did are extremely privileged," said Peter Earle of the Canadian Air Force. "Derek and I considered ourselves like brothers, and I'll miss him greatly."
Speakers throughout the memorial went for laughs several times during the somber event, remembering Nichols' love for hunting, flying and family. Other pilots say Nichols, who went by the call sign "Crush" was the type of person that made everyone around him a better pilot.
"Through my exchange tour, I've become familiar with the term 'great American,'" said exchange pilot Dru Davidson. "We have a similar term in Australia--it's called 'great bloke.' Crush was a great bloke."
Military investigators are still trying to figure out exactly what went wrong with Nichols' plane. He was returning from a three-week deployment in Denmark when his plane crashed on the runway in Beaufort while his family waited on the tarmac.
He left a wife and two young children.