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‘Risking it all’: Beaufort/Port Royal SC fire chief’s words to lost reservist from MCAS Beaufort

21-year-old Marine killed in shooting at Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, SC

Cpl. Tyler P. Wallingford, 21, has been identified as the victim of a fatal April 12, 2019 shooting at the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, S.C.
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Cpl. Tyler P. Wallingford, 21, has been identified as the victim of a fatal April 12, 2019 shooting at the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, S.C.

Dear citizens of the city of Beaufort, town of Port Royal and greater Beaufort County:

Yesterday, a life lost was remembered. Marines from MCAS Beaufort along with friends and family gathered to memorialize Cpl. Tyler Wallingford.

Among Tyler’s family was his extended family, a family that is only truly understood by a few. Firefighters from the City of Beaufort/Town of Port Royal Fire Department sat alongside Tyler’s family and fellow Marines as their brother firefighter was remembered.

In late summer 2018, reserve recruitment signs went up in front of the four fire stations run by our department, just as they had every six months for the last five or six years. One of these signs, or the word of mouth from a fellow Marine about the open recruiting period, sparked Tyler’s interest in serving his community.

Tyler was already a fourth-generation firefighter and had previously served his hometown of Standish, Maine, as a firefighter prior to enlisting in the Marine Corps. Application to be a reserve firefighter with his adopted hometown was a natural fit for him. Tyler officially joined the Beaufort/Port Royal Fire Department in November and soon found himself studying alongside 15 other new recruits in order to earn their Firefighter I certification.

Tyler was remembered by that crew of recruits and our departmental instructors as hard working, highly capable in his skills, and always at the center of the action with the other recruits. One instructor remarked that this class was one of the tightest knit he had ever seen.

Tyler graduated along with his class this March. This marked the beginning of what was sure to be countless Tuesday night drills, station time with the full-time firefighters, and the inevitable response to emergencies and fires alongside Beaufort/Port Royals’ finest veteran firefighters.

At Beaufort/Port Royal, we all know the tragic story already.

On April 12, a mere five weeks after being released into the full ranks of our fire department, Tyler was suddenly gone.

I want to say this: Thank you, Tyler Wallingford!

Thank you for being willing to give more of yourself.

Thank you for wanting to be a part of your adopted hometown.

Thank you for wearing the uniform of a firefighter.

Thank you for risking it all to not only serve your country but to serve its people, where it matters most, at home.

On behalf of all the Citizens of Beaufort, Port Royal, and Beaufort County, thank you to Tyler’s mom and dad, extended family, and the Standish Fire Department for allowing us the brief opportunity we had to know your son and brother firefighter.

Thank you to the U.S. Marine Corps and Tyler’s fellow Marines for bringing Tyler to our doorstep. Tyler unknowingly joined a long-standing tradition at the Beaufort/Port Royal Fire Department. Every agency in this county has either had military volunteers or has veterans in their ranks. Countless Marines and Sailors have volunteered in our department and just as many have stayed to become permanent fixtures in the history of our department.

The tragedy that befell Tyler came at an unquantifiable cost. Tyler had unlimited potential in his future. Tyler was a corporal of Marines, working at an MCAS squadron, living on base in Oscar Barracks, and he was a reserve firefighter.

I can start to quantify that cost of potential that was lost. In 2001, I was a corporal of Marines, working at an MCAS squadron, living on base in Oscar Barracks, and was a reserve firefighter.

With a broken heart, yet sincerely yours in service ...

Reece W. Bertholf is chief of the Beaufort/Port Royal Fire Department.
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