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Arlington Marine killed in Osprey crash remembered for his dedication to his crew

Last night, hundreds gathered outside the family home of Cpl. Spencer Collart, who died tragically during a training exercise in Australia, to honor his life.

Despite the somber atmosphere at the Maywood home of Collart’s parents, Alexia and Bart, neighbors, friends and family offered prayers, shared fond memories and joined together to sing Spencer’s favorite song, “Africa” by Toto.

The 21-year-old was one of three Marines who lost their lives after their MV-22B Osprey aircraft crashed and caught fire on Melville Island, off the coast of Australia’s Northern Territory. The incident occurred about two weeks ago during a military training exercise involving forces from the United States, Australia, the Philippines, East Timor and Indonesia.

Twenty Marines survived, though three remained hospitalized as of Monday. The cause of the crash is still being investigated.

The Collarts said their son’s remains will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, although a date for the service has not yet been confirmed.

During the vigil, Collart’s youth pastor, Greg O’Dell of Cherrydale Baptist Church, said he had many passions as a young adult, including video games and lacrosse. But those were overshadowed by his desire to join the Marines, which he did on Oct. 26, 2020, at age 18, after graduating from Washington-Liberty High School.

“And he really researched it. And he said, ‘This is where I need to go. This is this is my next step,'” O’Dell said, recalling a discussion he had with Spencer his senior year.

His parents say Collart served in Pensacola, Florida, and Jacksonville, North Carolina. He became a MV-22B crew chief and was then stationed in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

Collart was promoted to the rank of Corporal earlier this year and had earned three awards: the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

O’Dell said the last “serious conversation” he had with Collart took place at the former neighborhood bar and restaurant, Thirsty Bernie, and the young Marine “could not stop talking about” how much he loved his work.

He said Spencer was responsible for making sure everybody who went up in the Osprey came home safe. He mused that his actions were part of the reason most people aboard the aircraft survived.

“He’s the one that would go up and down and pull their straps and make sure they were buckled down,” O’Dell said. “He’s the one if they needed to bail out, he would open the back door and start bailing them out. He was the one who was the door gunner, if they came in, under fire. And so, he protected his Marines that came on to that Osprey, and so did the pilots.”

After the vigil, his parents, Alexia and Bart, described the past two weeks as an emotional whirlwind, saying they haven’t had the time to fully come to terms with their loss. However, they noted an outpouring of support, particularly from the military community, has been a significant source of comfort.

“We feel really supportive with the Marines,” Alexia told ARLnow. “The Marines are unbelievable. Spencer found his tribe.”

Bart spoke emotionally about his late son, emphasizing the young Marine’s dedication and passion — qualities he noted Spencer’s superiors also recognized — were obvious.

“One of his instructors told us that Spencer was an outstanding student. Always the top of his class. And he was the kind of kid that would ask you lots of questions in class, then he would also grab you on the way out and ask your questions,” he said. “And he said, ‘After a while, we realized that we were also learning stuff from Spencer.'”

Bart added he knew his son loved what he did because it brought a smile to his face.

“Spencer, he never smiles. He’s like a tough guy. He’s got this wall that puts up for people,” he said, gesturing to a photograph of his son beaming in uniform while inside an aircraft.

The Collarts said they are trying not to focus on the tragedy, the latest for the family since their home burned down in a 2020 fire. Instead, they are focused on “all this great stuff happened,” including the flood of support from individuals worldwide with whom Spencer had interacted and served.

“It’s just weird. You don’t think of it when they’re here. But now looking back — and also hearing other people that know him from the Marine Corps that we didn’t know about — I’m just amazed at how many lives that kid touched because he could put that wall up that apparently he let down a lot more than I ever realized,” Bart said.

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