“He was interested, from a small child, in military things,” said his mother, Bell Clement, recalling Chase’s decision to join the Marine Corps in September 2008 after he graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in Northwest Washington.
“He was seeking his own measure,” she said. “He wanted to have a challenge to measure himself against. The other thing was [that] he believed in the mission. And I know that he was completely committed to his team.”
Chase, 22, was one of two Washington area service members killed in separate incidents in Afghanistan on Memorial Day.
The sergeant died Monday during combat operations in southern Helmand province, according to the Pentagon.
In eastern Afghanistan, Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 John C. Pratt, 51, of Springfield was killed in a helicopter crash, the Pentagon reported.
Also killed in the crash was Capt. John R. Brainard, 26, of Dover-Foxcroft, Maine. Both were assigned to the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade in Ansbach-Katterbach, Germany.
The cause of the crash remains under investigation, but an initial report indicates there was no enemy activity in the area at the time of the crash, Pentagon officials said.
Chase, who was born and raised in the District, was serving his second tour in Afghanistan. His contract with the Marines was to be completed in September, his mother said.
“He was a nice kid, he was handsome, he was strong, he was polite,” said Robert Uth, a documentary writer and producer who became Chase’s mentor when the young Marine became interested in photography. “He would be the guy in the room that everybody would be comfortable talking to. He had a really good sense of self, but he wasn’t arrogant. He was friendly.
“It is so ironic that he was killed on Memorial Day,” Uth said.
This week, friends and relatives left photos and messages on Chase’s Facebook page, many of them praising his dedication to military service and calling him an incredible person, awesome friend and a courageous Marine.
Julie Caccamise, who taught Chase at Wilson, said he also was committed to pursing his education. Last year, she wrote him a letter of recommendation for a college application.
“From very early on, his plan was to go on to the Marines,” she said. “For him it was just one more step in learning and growing as a whole person.”
Chase was planing to return to the District to pursue a degree in photography and writing at George Washington University, where he had applied to enter in spring 2013, his mother said.
But even as he looked forward to another chapter, Chase was deeply engaged in the military mission, she said.
“He said, ‘This is what I have been training to do and it will be unbearable for me to have worked this hard and trained this hard and not have the opportunity to do what I need to do,’ ” she said. “He wanted to be where he was doing his job.”
Chase was a fire support noncommissioned officer, assigned to the 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa, Japan.
His service awards include the Purple Heart, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
“Sergeant Chase was a great example of a sergeant of Marines and a mentor to all who knew him,” said Sgt. Maj. Kevin M. Conboy, of the 5th ANGLICO Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, in a statement. “He will be greatly missed.”