Family and friends: Local soldier killed in helicopter crash was brave, loved

Scott McIntyre/Staff
An American flag flies at half mast in honor of Army Staff Sgt. Marc Scialdo at his family's home in Golden Gate. Scialdo, who was one of five Americans killed in a helicopter crash on the deadliest day so far this year in Afghanistan. The 31-year-old Naples native was a Black Hawk crew chief with the 603rd Aviation Support Battalion and serving his second tour of duty. He was a 1999 graduate of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, and a 2002 graduate of Edison State College.

Photo by SCOTT MCINTYRE // Buy this photo

Scott McIntyre/Staff An American flag flies at half mast in honor of Army Staff Sgt. Marc Scialdo at his family's home in Golden Gate. Scialdo, who was one of five Americans killed in a helicopter crash on the deadliest day so far this year in Afghanistan. The 31-year-old Naples native was a Black Hawk crew chief with the 603rd Aviation Support Battalion and serving his second tour of duty. He was a 1999 graduate of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, and a 2002 graduate of Edison State College.

Staff Sgt. Marc Scialdo, 31, an Army soldier from Naples, was killed this week in a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan. Scialdo, a Black Hawk crew chief serving his second tour of duty, was a 1999 graduate of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, and a 2002 graduate of Edison State College.

Staff Sgt. Marc Scialdo, 31, an Army soldier from Naples, was killed this week in a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan. Scialdo, a Black Hawk crew chief serving his second tour of duty, was a 1999 graduate of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, and a 2002 graduate of Edison State College.

Scott McIntyre/Staff 
 An American flag flies at half mast in honor of Army Staff Sgt. Marc Scialdo at his family's home in Golden Gate. Scialdo, who was one of five Americans killed in a helicopter crash on the deadliest day so far this year in Afghanistan. The 31-year-old Naples native was a Black Hawk crew chief with the 603rd Aviation Support Battalion and serving his second tour of duty. He was a 1999 graduate of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, and a 2002 graduate of Edison State College.

Photo by SCOTT MCINTYRE, Scott McIntyre // Buy this photo

Scott McIntyre/Staff An American flag flies at half mast in honor of Army Staff Sgt. Marc Scialdo at his family's home in Golden Gate. Scialdo, who was one of five Americans killed in a helicopter crash on the deadliest day so far this year in Afghanistan. The 31-year-old Naples native was a Black Hawk crew chief with the 603rd Aviation Support Battalion and serving his second tour of duty. He was a 1999 graduate of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, and a 2002 graduate of Edison State College.

Video from NBC-2

Talk to family and friends about Marc Scialdo and several terms come up.

Awesome. Funny. Loved. And very brave.

“He was that guy,” said his older sister, Jackie Nelson. “Everybody loved him. And he loved to serve his country.” Scialdo, 31, a staff sergeant with the U.S. Army, was killed Monday evening when the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter he was traveling in crashed in Afghanistan.

Scialdo grew up in Collier County. He graduated from St. John Neumann High School in 1999 and Edison State College in 2002.

Initial reports showed no enemy activity in the area at the time of the helicopter crash, the NATO military coalition said in a statement. The cause of the crash is being investigated.

Susan Scialdo, Marc’s mother, said the family had not heard any news about the cause of the crash. Marc Scialdo’s wife, Kara, father, Marshall, and brother, David, traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Del., awaiting the return of his body.

“I just loved him,” said Susan Scialdo, who was wore an Army sweatshirt Wednesday. “He was never a problem. He was just awesome.”

Family members proudly talked of how Scialdo joined the Army after the 9/11 attacks. He was on his second tour of duty, having completed a first tour in Iraq. The flag at the family’s home in Golden Gate Estates was flying at half-staff Wednesday morning.

“He loved to serve his country,” Jackie Nelson said. “He knew that serving his country was also keeping his family safe.”

Nelson said her brother “loved to fly.” He was a crew chief on a Black Hawk helicopter with the 603rd Aviation Support Battalion.

Friend Jeff Jackson, who has known Scialdo since their days at St. John Neumann High School, said Scialdo loved the military.

“He loved the action. He was a true hero,” he said. “We’re still in shock. We’re all devastated. ... His life was exemplary. Everything he did, he did extraordinarily well.”

Jackson said Scialdo and his wife lived in Savannah, Ga., but Kara Scialdo had recently moved back to Naples, where the couple hoped to settle once Scialdo left the military in the coming months.

Jackson, who was one of several friends who introduced the couple, said his concerns now are for Kara Scialdo.

“Everybody that got to know Marc is better off for doing so,” he said. “He was a fantastic friend, an adoring husband. His family, all of his friends are going to miss him a lot.”

Scialdo was “the life of the party,” Nelson said.

“He was an awesome brother,” she said. “He had a lot of integrity.”

Jack Crifasi Jr., who has known Scialdo since middle school, said Scialdo made everyone laugh. Crifasi said his friend was down to earth, but driven.

“He wanted to be the best. He wanted to excel at whatever he attempted,” Crifasi said. “He loved flying the helicopters. He loved being in the black ops.”

A US official said the helicopter went down outside Kandahar City. All five Americans on board were killed, according to the official, who spoke on a condition on anonymity because the information had not been formally released.

The Americans killed in Monday’s helicopter crash make 12 U.S. troops killed so far this year in Afghanistan. There were 297 service members killed in Afghanistan in 2012, according to an Associated Press tally.

It was the deadliest crash since August, when a U.S. military helicopter went down during a firefight with insurgents in a remote area of Kandahar. Seven Americans and four Afghans died in that crash.

Funeral services for Scialdo have not been determined.

Staff writer Tom Hanson and the Associated Press contributed to this report

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