An Army officer who grew up in Arlington and died in a helicopter crash last week in Egypt was remembered Saturday as a “very compassionate and loving person” who was a role model to his younger siblings and a proud Muslim service member.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Marwan S. Ghabour, 27, a UH-60 Black Hawk pilot on his first overseas assignment as part of a United Nations peacekeeping force, was killed Thursday along with four other American service members and two others, when their helicopter crashed on the Saudi Arabian island of Tiran off the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, according to officials.
“My brother was a very loving person” that his friends and family knew they could always lean on, said Muhaned Ghabour, 21. “That’s why he went to the Army: He wanted to be part of something greater than himself, serve this country, and help as many people as he can.”
Strong morals always guided Ghabour, and he was proud to be a Muslim fighting for his country, his brother said.
“He had a very strong moral compass,” Muhaned Ghabour said. “He did the right thing at all times even when it was hard. He’s done many, many things when it was right even when it was hard."
The other American service members killed in the crash were Captain Seth Vernon Vandekamp, 31, from Katy, Texas; Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dallas Gearld Garza, 34, from Fayetteville, N.C.; Staff Sergeant Kyle Robert McKee, 35, from Painesville, Ohio; and Sergeant Jeremy Cain Sherman, 23, from Watseka, Ill., the Army said.
According to the United Nations Multinational Force and Observers, with whom the crew was serving, the cause of the crash “appears to be mechanical in nature," although it is under investigation. The Army said only that the crash was under investigation.
One service member from the Czech Republic and one from France were also killed in the crash, and a sixth US service member was injured, according to the statement.
“It is with profound sadness that we mourn this tragic loss of life,” said Colonel David S. Sentell, commander of Task Force Sinai, where Ghabour was stationed as part of the aviation company. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends and loved ones of our fallen during this most difficult time. They should know that their nation will continue to honor their sacrifice.”
Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey and Representative Lori Trahan released a statement offering condolences.
“His passing is a stark reminder of the risk each of our servicemembers take in protecting our nation and promoting peace around the globe,” the lawmakers said.
Representative Stephen F. Lynchtweeted condolences to Ghabour’s family.
My thoughts & prayer are with the 5 US soldiers who perished in a helicopter crash in Egypt on Thursday. Chief Warrant Officer Marwan Sameh Ghabour was a son of Massachusetts. CWO Ghabour was serving as part of a multi-national peacekeeping force stationed on the Sinai peninsula.— Rep. Stephen Lynch (@RepStephenLynch) November 14, 2020
Ghabour — who was identified by the Army as being from Marlborough, where he had briefly lived with a relative — grew up in Arlington and graduated from Arlington High School in 2010 before attending Boston Architectural College, according to his family.
Other than an affinity for Buzz Lightyear from the “Toy Story” movies — he even hung a Buzz keychain in his car — there was little hint that a love of flight would begin to blossom in college, his brother said.
Though Ghabour took a job at architectural firm CBT Architects in Boston after graduating in 2016, he found his real passion was in the sky. “Every time he would talk about flying, his eyes would light up,” his brother said in a phone interview Saturday afternoon.
Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Hood, vice commander of Massachusetts Wing Civil Air Patrol, where Ghabour volunteered for about two years, said Saturday that Ghabour used it as a “stepping stone” to the military dreams he held, yet still made a real connection with him.
“He was an incredible young man,” Hood, who has been with the patrol for 18 years, said in a phone interview. His death “is beyond sad. I still can’t fathom it to be honest.”
When they talked last month, he said, Ghabour said he was doing exactly what he wanted to be doing.
“I can tell you flying helicopters for him was a dream come true. He was absolutely thrilled with the mission he was doing over there.”
According to the Army, Ghabour was commissioned as a warrant officer in 2018 and had been in Egypt since January as part of the Multinational Force and Observers, a peacekeeping mission founded to supervise the Egyptian-Israel peace treaty in 1981.
He had been awarded the National Defense Service Ribbon, the Army Service Ribbon, and the Army Aviation Badge.
He was a role model to his brother and two sisters in a way that made the dangers of his job feel remote, said Muhaned Ghabour.
“I guess as a younger brother you think your older brother is always going to be there to guide you. I looked up to him,” he said, his voice breaking slightly.
“There is a sense of loss but I would say I’m a lot more proud than I feel a sense of loss. He’s always been a hero to me but I’m just glad everyone can see the hero he really was.”
Lucas Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.