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Friends remember fallen Guard member

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HAMMOND - The first of four Louisiana National Guardsmen killed in a helicopter crash was buried Monday.

A service for Chief Warrant Officer 4 George Wayne Griffin Jr. was held in Hammond with burial in Lafayette. Griffin, three other Hammond-based Guardsmen and seven Marines were killed in the Black Hawk helicopter crash off the coast of Florida two weeks ago.

"It's horrific and it's tragic. It's something that's going to take the unit a long time to recover from," said Maj. Tim Cleighton.

Cleighton says Griffin was a family man who could light up a room.

"Wayne was a very humorous person, very full of life, very competent, and a very capable pilot...one of the best instructor pilots I've flown with," he said. "Wayne had the God-given talent of being a pilot, and he is one of the best instructor pilots that we've ever had."

Jerry Harvey, a guardsmen who also participates as a Patriot Guard Rider, says he knew Griffin as well.

"He was a very fun to be around. He was very serious but he would take care of business, but you could go talk to him, and I really enjoyed getting to know him know in the several years we've served together, said Harvey. "He was just awesome, great guy and a great family man."

Griffin served more than two decades in the military clocking more than 6,000 flight hours. He served two tours in Iraq and was also part of rescue missions during Hurricane Katrina.

After services in Hammond, Griffin's body was taken to Lafayette for the burial. Harvey and other Patriot Guard Riders escorted the funeral procession along I-12.

"It's an honor and a privilege to take one of my friends, the fellow soldier that I served with that has flown me and went to battle with," he said. "It is a honor and a privilege to take them to their resting place and show them the gratitude that we have for him an the family."

With the loss of a true hero, Griffin's family, friends and fellow guardsmen will look to stick together through this tragic time.

"I think the most important thing is for the families to know that we're there for them, and if they need anything that the unit will always be there for them," said Cleighton.

Funeral services for Chief Warrant Officer 4 David Strother, Staff Sgt. Lance Bergeron and Staff Sgt. Thomas Florich have not been announced.

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