Memorial held for Miramar pilot killed in Twentynine Palms crash

Posted at 10:29 AM, Aug 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-12 21:11:42-04

SAN DIEGO - A memorial service was held Friday for a San Diego-based Marine Corps fighter pilot killed when the combat jet he was flying crashed during training near Twentynine Palms.

Maj. Richard Sterling Norton, a member of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232, was honored during a morning ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, where he was stationed.

On the night of July 28, the 36-year-old Marine aviator was piloting an F/A-18C Hornet that went down for unknown reasons during maneuvers near the Marine Air Ground Combat Center. The crash remains under investigation.

Norton's wife, Leah, told 10News she loved how her husband was so selfless and giving. She said the two met in college and had been inseparable ever since.

Before they could celebrate their 11th wedding anniversary, she attended his funeral.

Less than a year ago, Maj. Norton was at a funeral for another pilot in the same squadron.

In October, the Red Devils were headed home from deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. Something went wrong and Major Taj Sareen went down.

Both pilots were highly-skilled and well-decorated.

Sterling got his pilot license at age 17 and later deployed to Afghanistan. He wore double patches as a graduate of both the Navy's Top Gun school and the Marine Corps' Weapons and Tactics Instructor school. He was doing a high-risk job in an aging aircraft.

Norton knew it could turn his wife into a widow, but he also knew putting his life on the line could keep others safe.

Norton earned his wings for a reason and kept giving until he gave all.

Leah Norton said he was laid to rest next to Sareen.

Norton was commissioned in March 2005, according to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. A native of Arcadia in Los Angeles County, he deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 and made several rotations to Japan. He was the recipient of a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with a gold star.

*NOTE: Video shown in our story is courtesy of MCAS Miramar