John Ellenberger, coach of the South Lakes Seahawks football team, remembers that whenever he had to lecture his wide receiver Tavon Lee Hubbard, he would try to be stern but would always end up smiling.
"He was that kid who was always joking," Ellenberger recalled. "He was a real easygoing kid. It's a real shame."
Last Wednesday, Hubbard, who went on to become a Lance Corporal in the U.S. Marines, was killed in a helicopter crash while serving in Iraq.
Pentagon officials confirmed Monday afternoon that Hubbard was among those killed in the crash in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq, located just west of Baghdad.
Hubbard, who grew up in Reston and graduated from South Lakes High School in 1998, died in the crash alongside Staff Sgt. John R. Howard, 26, of Covington, Va. The cause of the crash is still under investigation, though no enemy fire was observed near the crash site, according to a statement from the U.S. military.
Hubbard was assigned to the Command Element 11th Expeditionary Unit and was stationed at the Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton. He was deployed to Iraq last month, according to a statement by the Marine Corps.
He joined the Marines on Aug. 18, 1998 shortly after graduating high school and was the recipient of the Marine Corps Good Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
Hubbard's relatives could not be located for comment, but Ellenberger said he remembers the former varsity football player distinctly.
"He was a good kid," Ellenberger said. "He was fun to be around. This is such a shame."
At the Sept. 17 South Lakes football game against Herndon High School, South Lakes's National Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps will lower the school's flags to half-staff, play taps before the game and fire a 21-gun salute, said Sgt. Sean Keating, one of the two NJROTC officials at the school.
The ceremony at the game will be held in honor of Hubbard and also Nathan B. Bruckenthal, a U.S. Coast Guard officer who graduated from Herndon in 1997 and was killed in Iraq on April 24.
"We want to honor both of these young men," Keating said.
According to a Aug. 16 Pentagon report, 937 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq since the war began and 3,565 soldiers have been wounded.