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Mark Edward Hutchison
Find A Grave photo courtesy Lynda Davis

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

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Mark Edward Hutchison
1963-1990

"A soldier doesn't fight because he hates the enemy in front of him, he fights because he loves what he left behind."

Mario Tomasello

Mark Edward Hutchison was born on March 30, 1963, in Elkins, Randolph County, West Virginia. Mark's parents were Edward Scott Hutchison and Helen Ruth Purkey Hutchison. Mark was the youngest of five siblings; he had two sisters, Barbara Hutchison Combs and Nancy Hutchison Fahey, and two brothers, Steve and Dave. In his teenage years, Mark was involved with numerous organizations including the Boy Scouts of America, the Izaak Walton League, and the Woodford Memorial United Methodist Church. He attended Elkins High School and graduated in 1981. (Beth Henry-Vance, “Dedication: 11th Street Bridge Renamed for U.S. Navy Veteran, The Inter-Mountain, 24 July 2017, accessed 23 March 2021, https://www.theintermountain.com/news/local-news/2017/07/dedication-2/.)

Growing up, Mark did not have to look very far to find role models or even those who served in the military, as his father was a World War II Navy Veteran. His father served from 1943 through 1945 in several theaters of the war. During this time, he participated as an operator of a Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel (LCVP) or better known as the Higgins Boat during the landing of troops on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Mr. Hutchison also served as an Elkins city councilman for several years during the 1970s.

Mark grew up in the town of Elkins, West Virginia, until he went into the military. Elkins is the county seat of Randolph County; it is situated in the northern central area of the state and is located at the confluence of the Tygart Valley River and Leading Creek. During his childhood, America was going through many struggles from the Vietnam War, anti-war protesters, and civil unrest, as well as the civil rights movement and equal rights for all Americans.

Mark Hutchison enlisted in the United States Navy on April 12, 1983, two years after he had graduated from Elkins High School in 1981. Mark served as a Boiler Technician 2nd Class (BT2) and was assigned to Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia. At the age of 23, he married Rhonda Ann Dehart on March 14, 1987, in Norfolk. Mark was assigned to the USS Iwo Jima, which was the lead ship of her class and type--the first amphibious assault ship to be designed and built from the keel up as a dedicated helicopter carrier. She carried helicopters and typically embarked U.S. Marine Corps elements of a Marine Amphibious Until (later Marine Expeditionary Unit, principally the Aviation Combat Element) to conduct heliborne operations in support of an amphibious operation.
USS <i>Iwo Jima</i> (LPH-2). National Archives and Records Administration photo (NAID) 6348975

USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2). National Archives and Records Administration photo (NAID) 6348975

The first Gulf War was a 35-nation response (led by the United States) to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait on August 2, 1990. ("Gulf War," Wikipedia, last edited 24 April 2021, accessed 27 April 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_War.) Mark was assigned to the USS Iwo Jima, which was a 30-year-old amphibious assault ship with a crew of over 700 and capable of transporting a Marine Aviation Squadron and landing team of over 1,500 Marines. She was dependable and was deployed to take part in Operation Desert Shield in August of 1990. After two months of the buildup of ground troops and naval forces, the USS Iwo Jima developed a leak in the steam valve that supplied steam to the stand-by electrical generator. Because of this leak, it had docked at the port of Manama, Bahrain, on October 25, 1990, where the valve was repaired by a local contractor. ("USS Iwo Jima [LPH-2]," Wikipedia, last updated 28 February 2021, accessed 23 March 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Iwo_Jima_(LPH-2).)

The repairs were completed, and, on October 30, 1990, the USS Iwo Jima prepared to meet the rest of the fleet. At 7:56 am, it was underway, headed for her part in the largest military buildup since World War II. "She would quickly reach a catastrophic destination made inevitable due to improper repair specifications, inadequate work procedures, use of non-certified material and no quality assurance merging with the lack of proper supervision, missing inspections and check points." (Timothy C. Cummings, "A Steel Ship and Iron Men: Catastrophe and Courage aboard USS Iwo Jima, [p. 6]," The Chief Engineers Association of Chicagoland, accessed 27 April 2021, https://chiefengineer.org/2014/a-steel-ship-and-iron-men-catastrophy-and-courage-aboard-uss-iwo-jima/.) As the ship built up steam, the improperly repaired valve sprung a leak again, blowing the bonnet of the steam valve off, resulting in spewing BT2 Hutchison and nine other crewmembers in the fire room with 640 psi super-heated steam. Four crewmembers were able to make their way to the sick bay for treatment and were later transferred the USS Comfort where later that day they would succumb to their terrible injuries. The six other crewmembers stayed in the fire room, where they tried to shut down the steam plant in order to save the ship, which they did, costing them their lives as well. (Douglas Jehl, "Ruptured Ship's Steam Line Kills 10 aboard USS Iwo Jima," The Morning Call, 31 October 1990, accessed 23 March 2021, https://www.mcall.com/news/mc-xpm-1990-10-31-2773385-story.html#:~:text=RUPTURE%20OF%20SHIP%27S%20STEAM%20LINE%20KILLS%2010%20ABOARD.)

Family members gather following the bridge dedication ceremony on 11th Street in Elkins for Petty Officer Mark Edward Hutchison, who was killed Oct. 30, 1990, during a boiler-room rupture on the USS <i>Iwo Jima</i>. Shown seated in front is his father, Edward S. Hutchison, as well as siblings and other relatives. <i>Elkins Inter-Mountain</i> photo, 24 July 2017. Used with permission

Family members gather following the bridge dedication ceremony on 11th Street in Elkins for Petty Officer Mark Edward Hutchison, who was killed Oct. 30, 1990, during a boiler-room rupture on the USS Iwo Jima. Shown seated in front is his father, Edward S. Hutchison, as well as siblings and other relatives. Elkins Inter-Mountain photo, 24 July 2017. Used with permission

After his death, BT2 Hutchison's body was returned to his hometown of Elkins, West Virginia. On November 5, 1990, BT2 Mark E. Hutchison was buried at Mountain State Memorial Gardens in Elkins with full military honors. Mark will always be remembered as on March 9, 2017, the West Virginia State Legislature introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 31. This resolution was to honor BT2 Hutchison and his sacrifice to our country by renaming the 11th Street Bridge that stretches over the Tygart River in Elkins, West Virginia, as the "U. S. Navy BT2 Mark Edward Hutchison Memorial Bridge." Mark was very familiar with the 11th Street Bridge, which was renamed and dedicated to him on July 22, 2017, because he used the bridge frequently to travel to and from Elkins High School and the Randolph County Vocational Technical Center.

On October 21, 2015, the Tucker Community Foundation established a scholarship in his name along with another Elkins veteran, Marine Corporal David Lee Cosner, called the Mark Hutchison/ David Cosner Scholarship Fund. The purpose of this scholarship is "to honor the memory of Mark Hutchison and David Cosner by providing a scholarship to a senior from Randolph Technical Center who demonstrates the qualities valued by the Marines and the Navy: respect, discipline, honor, responsibility, commitment, and service to others." ("Mark Hutchison/David Cosner Scholarship Fund," Tucker Community Foundation, 2015, accessed 23 March 2021, http://www.tuckerfoundation.net/endowed-funds/scholarships/Mark-Hutchison-David-Cosner-scholarship/.)

BT2 Mark Hutchison will always be remembered as his name is inscribed on the marble walls of the West Virginia Veterans Memorial in Charleston, West Virginia, for his sacrifice to our country.

Article prepared by Wyatt Albertson, Trent Pauley, and MAJ (Ret) Brad McGee, George Washington High School JROTC
April 2021

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Mark Edward Hutchison

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