Eyewitness News has learned that a Westport native was among the seven Marines killed Monday during a training exercise in Nevada.
People that knew Lance Cpl. Robert Wolfe Muchnick Jr., a 2008 graduate of Staples High School in Westport, said he was killed after a 60-mm mortar exploded, killing seven and injuring several others near an ammunition facility.
Emergency responders rushed the injured Marines and sailors to the Regional Medical Center in Reno, NV.
The service members were based in Camp Lejune, NC, but had been training in the area for a month.
"The families of our Marines and sailors that died our hearts go out to you," said Gen. Jim Lukeman, of the Second Marine Division Command. "We appreciate your sacrifice and we'll do all we can to continue to support you."
The United States military has placed a blanket suspension on mortar rounds and tubes until the investigation is complete.
"I'm going to do whatever I can going forward to support the United States military and the family of those fallen Marines," said Sen. Harry Reid.
During his time at Staples High School, Muchnick, 23, played lacrosse and went to play for Eastern Connecticut State University.
His ECSU team will honor him by wearing his number 36 on the back of their helmets for the 2013 season. The coach of the team said he ordered the equipment Wednesday morning.
However, Muchnick, known as RJ, left college to enter the Marines. He was a weapons specialist, who was stationed at a base in North Carolina and preparing for his third tour of duty in Afghanistan. His second tour of duty was in Kuwait.
During his three years in the Marines, Muchnick earned two stars of valor for service in Afghanistan.
"He was such a happy kid, always biggest smile on his face, just adorable," said Nancy Eckl. "Just a great kid. He is just going to be so missed."
Eckl, who works at the Gold's Delicatessen in Westport, has known Muchnick since he was young.
"You think of him as a little kid coming in here with his family and he grows up to become a hero. It's amazing," Eckl said. "I'm proud that I know him."
Muchnick comes from a family with a long history of military service and he will be buried in Lennox, MA, next to his two uncles, who also died while serving in the armed forces.
"I can't imagine what his family is going through," Eckl said. "I'm just thinking about them all today."
A family friend told Eyewitness News that Muchnick had dreams of going to law school after this tour.
An autopsy will be conducted on Muchnick's body before being released to his family. The family is planning to have services on next Friday or Saturday.
Eyewitness News reached out to the Westport School District, but they didn't return our calls.
Copyright 2013 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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