Beaufort fire chief pens letter mourning loss of Marine, firefighter

Local News
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BEAUFORT, S.C. (WSAV) – Friends, family, fellow Marines and firefighters gathered Tuesday to remember the life of one of their own.

Cpl. Tyler Wallingford, 21, of Standish, Maine, died on April 12. Officials say he was shot and killed at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort where he was stationed.

Another Aircraft Ordnance Technician in Wallingford’s training squadron was taken into custody in connection with the incident.

The Marine had a long family history of firefighting, which he carried with him from Maine to South Carolina.

Fire Chief Reece Bertholf, of the City of Beaufort/Town of Port Royal Fire Department, wrote a letter to the community in regards to Wallingford’s death, who joined the department in November:

Yesterday, a life lost was remembered. Marines from MCAS Beaufort along with friends and family gathered to memorialize Corporal 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 the late summer of 2018, recruitment signs went up in front of the four fire stations run by the City of Beaufort/Town of Port Royal Fire department as they had every six months for the last 5 or 6 years. These signs mark the beginning of the open recruitment period for the departments’ reserve firefighter program. Either 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.

You see, Tyler was already a 4th generation firefighter and had previously served his hometown of Standish, Maine as a volunteer firefighter prior to enlisting in the Marine Corps and eventually being stationed in Beaufort. Application to be a reserve firefighter with his adopted hometown of Beaufort and Port Royal, was a natural fit for him.

In November of 2018, Tyler officially joined the Beaufort/Port Royal Fire Department and soon found himself studying alongside 15 other new recruits in order to earn their initial firefighter certificate from the South Carolina Fire Academy. Tyler was remembered by that crew of recruits and their instructors from within our department as hard working, highly capable in his skills, and always at the center of the action with the other recruits. One instructor in particular remarked that this class was one of the tightest knit he had ever seen.

March marked the graduation of this new class of recruits and the beginning for Tyler 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 right alongside Beaufort/Port Royals’ finest veteran firefighters.

Beaufort/Port Royal, we all know the tragic story already. On April 12th, a mere 5 weeks after being released into the full ranks of our fire department, Tyler was suddenly gone. However, you likely didn’t know that Tyler was not only one of our Marines, he also was one of our first responders.

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 for however long you were going to be here. 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 the City of Beaufort, Town of Port Royal, and Beaufort County I want to thank Tyler’s Mom and Dad, extended family, and his family at the Standish Maine Fire Department. Thank you for allowing us the brief opportunity we had to know your son and brother firefighter. I also want to thank the United States Marine Corps and Tyler’s fellow Marines for bringing Tyler to our door step.

Tyler unknowingly had joined a long-standing tradition at the City of Beaufort/Town of Port Royal Fire Department as well as ALL emergency service agencies in Beaufort County. Every agency in the county has either had military volunteers or veterans in their ranks for as long as the Military has been in Beaufort County. Countless Marines and Sailors have volunteered in our department over the years 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 was a reserve firefighter.

I can start to quantify that cost of potential that was lost because you see 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

Fire Chief

City of Beaufort/Town of Port Royal Fire Department

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