by Cassie Mattia
Loveland, Ohio – The community of Loveland has always had a special place in their “Sweethearts” for war heroes as the city is not only home to some of the most beautiful veteran memorials, but is also what many veterans call home. For the last 10 years, Loveland has paid tribute to Captain David Seth Mitchell, a decorated war hero, and Loveland High School graduate, through the Annual Captain Seth Mitchell Hero 5K. Captain Mitchell was killed on October 26th, 2009 at age 30 when two helicopters collided while he was supporting combat operations in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. At the time of tragedy, Captain Mitchell was stationed at Camp Pendleton, CA and was part of the Marine Corp HMLA 367 Scarface unit. Captain Mitchell piloted an AH-1 Super Cobra helicopter.
The other Marines killed in the collision were Corporal Gregory M.W. Fleury, 23, of Anchorage, Alaska; Captain Eric A. Jones, 29, of Westchester, New York; and Captain Kyle R. Van De Giesen, 29, of North Attleboro, Massachusetts.
Being relatively new to the Loveland community I had never heard of Captain Mitchell before my Editor, David Miller suggested I take on the assignment of telling you his story. After countless hours of research and conducting interviews with people that knew him, I quickly realized that Mitchell accomplished great heroic acts for Loveland and the United States before he died. Miller told me that he had always been inspired by the way Seth lived his life and how it has inspired others. After finishing this article David and I decided we wanted to make Seth’s story a part of our “What’s In Loveland’s DNA” segment as Captain Mitchell was someone who easily made the city of Loveland what it is today…a place filled with LOVE!
Captain Seth Mitchell was born in Charlotte, North Carolina on May 17, 1979, but grew up in Loveland and attended Loveland City Schools from 6th grade forward. From a very young age, Mitchell knew what he wanted to do when he grew up, and that was fly a plane! According to Mitchell’s parents, Steve and Connie Mitchell, he dreamed of two things as a kid – to fly and be a Marine.
“In his pre-high school years, Seth was not much of a leader. Maybe, the opposite. Very mischievous and had many troubles with grades in middle school and early high school,” Mitchell’s Father Steve said, “As parents, we saw a tremendous change in Seth after his freshman year. He actually finished that school year outside Loveland schools due to a personal issue. Something changed in Seth and he became a boy on a mission,” Steve said, “Perhaps it was his involvement with church activities, perhaps it was getting the know the folks that would become his lifelong friends. Whatever it was, he changed. He led a Bible study class, became more involved in school activities, started doing homework, persisted with teachers to let him take AP courses, became more outgoing. He changed and ‘invented’ the Seth he would become through the rest of his life,” Steve added.
Although Captain Mitchell had his trials and tribulations as he grew up he overcame all of the obstacles standing in his way and decided to make a difference. Friends said that he became a “do something” kid, always staying active and wanting to experience all he could. Mitchell became part of Loveland High School’s track and field team as well as the football team and eventually came to be elected as Senior class president. Captain Mitchell was so personable and well-liked by his classmates he was also voted “Mr. Personality” his senior year at Loveland.
“I want people to know that Seth was not a scholar, nor a star athlete, but he had goals, declared them and worked hard to achieve them,” Steve told Loveland Magazine, “He never became the star athlete, but found his role. Never became top of the class academically, but did make the honor roll a few times due to his hard work. One of Seth’s friends described him as a ‘friend to all’. I think he really tried to see people through many lenses,” Steve added.
Mitchell graduated from Loveland High School in 1997 and went on to attend Virginia Tech where he majored in English. While at VT Mitchell decided to enroll in the Marines through the ROTC program his freshman year and shortly after was awarded an ROTC scholarship. The VT ROTC scholarship enabled Mitchell to transition from VT ROTC to the Marine Corp in 2001.
While stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina Captain Mitchell was determined to make it into the flight program as an aviator. Unfortunately, the waiting process was prolonged when Mitchell discovered he did not meet the vision requirements for the flight program. He then decided to get corrective eye surgery so that he could live out his aviation dream. After the surgery and a lot of dedication, Mitchell was awarded his private pilot’s license and a Marine Aviation training spot. Captain Mitchell completed his flight training in Pensacola, Florida and finally earned the “wings” he always wanted in May of 2007. What hit home with many of Captain Mitchell’s family and friends is that he physically drove to the Pentagon to deliver his Marine Aviation application so that he knew 100 percent that his application would not get lost in the mail. Talk about determination! Captain Mitchell’s hard work paid off as he went on to become an AH-1 Super Cobra Helicopter Pilot.
After already serving tours in Okinawa, Haiti, and Iraq in an infantry unit, Mitchell then served as an intelligence officer and pilot in Iraq in 2008. Shortly after, Mitchell and another Marine volunteered to go to Afghanistan early because the unit there didn’t have enough “manpower.”
“Seth’s unit, HMLA 367 – Scarface was to replace the HMLA 169 – Vipers in Afghanistan in late October 2009,” Steve said. “ The Vipers unit, however, had a pilot shortage. At a briefing in 29 Palms, CA, Seth immediately volunteered himself and his friend, Cpt. Porter B. Jones to go early. His C.O. told him no on three occasions, but Seth persisted. He was always a persistent person,” Steve said.
On August 10th, family and friends said goodbye as he left for Afghanistan, not knowing that that would be the last time they spoke to him in person. Captain Mitchell died on October 26th in Afghanistan’s Helmand province along with 4 other U.S troops.
“On October 26, a high-value target was identified with a short time to act. Seth and the others were in the queue, the lead pilot was disqualified due to hours and Seth moved up to the lead,” Steve explained, “As the subsequent ‘investigation’ said, there were many things to cover and a short time to do it. Per the investigation, much of it was improvised in flight. This was cited as one of the causes of the accident. In the rush to the target the helicopters, which always flew in tandem with the prescribed distance between them, got too close and collided. Ironically Seth died on the day his unit, 367/Scarface landed in Afghanistan and was to replace the 169/Viper unit,” Steve said.
“Seth’s death in the crash was immediate. He died when the choppers collided. We got the word around 2 AM when the Marines showed up at our home,” Steve said, “We stayed with the casualty officers until around 5 AM. Three hours later we drove to where his brother Drew was living, to tell him. It was like we had to experience the devastation two times that morning,” Steve added.
Captain David Seth Mitchell was buried on November 6th, 2009 at Arlington National Cemetery. Mitchell was the 113th casualty of Operation Enduring Freedom and the 577th service member from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to be buried at Arlington.
“Seth is buried in Section 60, site # 8948. On November 4 we had a church service in Cary, NC, where we lived. Seth was born in Charlotte, NC and was a native North Carolinian, however on his military forms, required before deployments he listed his hometown as Loveland, Ohio,” Steve said, “We’ve said many times that Loveland was home to Seth because that’s where he had his passions and his lifelong friends. Seth graduated in ’97, went to VA Tech than to the Marine Corps, so he never established another home after high school. We did move back to NC in ’01, so when he came home from Marine duties, he came to NC where we lived. However he did wind up in Loveland on many occasions during his Marine service,” Steve said.
Join us for the 10th annual Cpt Seth Mitchell HERO 5K on Saturday, September 21st! INFO & REGISTRATION
Picnic Lunch of Hamburgers and Hot Dogs Included!
Now for the 10th year in a row Captain Mitchell’s family, friends and the Loveland community will come together for the Annual Captain Seth Mitchell Hero 5K happening on Saturday, September 21st. The race will begin at 11 AM at Nisbet Park in Historic Downtown Loveland. Over the past 10 years, Mitchell’s Loveland High School classmates have put on the Hero 5K as a way of representing the type of person Captain Mitchell was. Below is what Mitchell’s friends hope to achieve this year.
“We are a group of Seth Mitchell’s Loveland High School classmates, who miss our friend and want to keep his memory alive. We represent the many people who Seth made an impression on with his sense of humor, kind heart, and loyal friendship. As we organize this 5k Race and the scholarship memorial fund, we are motivated by one enduring inspiration: to live each day a little more honorably, kindly, and humbly… just like Seth. Please join us by donating, running, or volunteering – and keep Seth’s memory alive.”
For the Hero 5k this year, Mitchell’s supporters are looking for volunteers as well as donations for the Captain Seth Mitchell Scholarship Fund, a scholarship that is awarded to a few select Loveland High School students every year.
Greg Carpinello, who was a very close friend and classmate to Mitchell, is excited to not only keep Seth’s memory alive but to also continue to award students the Captain Seth Mitchell Scholarship.
“In the years that have followed, it has been an honor to work with other classmates to keep Seth’s legacy alive in Loveland. We have awarded over $40,000 in scholarship money to more than 20 graduating Loveland High School students, but his story has touched the lives of hundreds of students over the last 10 years through the 5K, the witness of Seth’s teachers who still work in Loveland, and the wonderful ways in which Seth’s story is easily passed through word of mouth,” Carpinello said.
“Seth was like a brother to me. Our friendship and unbreakable bond grew throughout high school. I cherish the memories of our time together, lots of laughter working on Student Council projects, lots of hours of driving to concerts all over the country, but most notably the loyalty he showed me as a true friend during my life’s up and downs,” Carpinello explained. “The news of his death devastated me. I’ll never forget the phone call I got from our mutual friend Joe Horst. I was living in Boston at the time. When I answered and he told me to sit down, I knew right away that it was about Seth. I had to call my parents to break the news too. My Dad, a former Marine himself, and Seth grew close over the years as Seth deployed but always stayed in touch via email. I didn’t sleep at all that night…. the anguish was too great. The next few days were a blur as I traveled to North Carolina for the funeral. It was a moving service. Seth was loved by so many people, from every era of his life. The service reflected that clearly,” Carpinello said.
“This year, we would really like to see a record turnout for the 5K. We hope people will join us on Saturday, September 21st at 11:00 am to run or walk a 5K in honor of Seth, a true Loveland Hero,” added Carpinello.
Carpinello is not the only friend of Captain Seth Mitchell that couldn’t help but reminisce on their time spent with Mitchell. When Loveland Magazine mentioned the Hero 5k, Jeff Geiger, a former teacher of Mitchell’s that still teaches in Loveland, remembered him as being, “Determined, personable and extremely hard working…an example of a true ‘Tiger!”
“When Seth was killed, it was a shock, of course, it is never easy losing a former student – unfortunately too many. It did, however, bring the war home to those of us who knew Seth,” said Geiger. Because it was so personal, Geiger took his son Mark to Washington for the funeral. “It touched both of us as to the sacrifices being made by families all over this country.” Geiger told Loveland Magazine that when he taught Seth that he was a hard worker and really did not say too much, but he remembered that he always had a smile on his face and seemed genuinely happy being in class and being a Tiger. “Seth’s legacy is one of determination and sacrifice. It is an example to all ‘Tigers’ of what hard work and determination can accomplish. Seth’s sacrifice has also been important in teaching students about the phrase ‘Freedom isn’t Free’. No longer is it just a phrase to be thrown around – we have Seth to bring home the sad truth of its reality.” Geiger remembers that when Connie, Seth’s mother was handed the neatly folded American flag at the Arlington gravesite it became emblematic of all the mothers and fathers across this country who have given so much. “Loveland and similar communities should be both humble and grateful for the sacrifices of men and women such as Seth,” Geiger added.
“I loved Seth and his family more than anything. His death was one of the hardest things I have ever had to face during my career in education,” Powers said.
Julie Powers, a former student council class advisor of Captain Mitchell’s and current Algebra 2 teacher at Loveland High School, chimed in on how wonderful Mitchell truly was.
“I loved Seth and his family more than anything. His death was one of the hardest things I have ever had to face during my career in education,” Powers said. “Sadly, I will not ever forget that day.” Powers remembers standing next to the sideboard in her room writing something on the board before school began. A friend and fellow teacher, Leah Evans, walked into her room and over to where she was standing. “I looked up at her face when she quietly asked, ‘Julie, you knew Seth Mitchell, right?’ My heart dropped at that moment. I knew immediately without her having to say a word that Seth was gone, gone from this world. We had lost him. He had been killed the day before, or, at least, I think Connie and Steve had received the news the day before. I remember not being able to stop crying,” Powers explained.
That whole class of students was one that I had gotten to know better than any other over the course of their high school careers. They had a closeness I have never before or after witnessed between all of the students. They did not have cliques that were separate from each other. There may have been ‘groups of friends’ in the class but it was a whole class of students who put everything they had into high school and enjoying the time they spent together at LHS. That morning, I remember walking to the office. Dr. Molly Moorhead and Debbie Hager, a guidance counselor and mother to Sarah Hager, also a graduate of the Class of ‘97, brought the few teachers left in the building who had taught Seth and knew him really well to Dr. Moorhead’s office so that we could speak with the Mitchells on the phone and be with each other. When I was speaking to Connie, she asked me had I taught Seth and I said: ‘yes, I had taught his Algebra 2 class.’ Connie’s response to me was ‘Aw, honey, Seth was never very good at math.’ I think I laughed a little with her because to me, being a student is more about a work ethic than the amount of raw talent someone has. And, I shared with her that Seth had been such an amazingly determined student. It did not matter that math was not his favorite class or that it may not have come as easily to him. He made the most of every day, always worked hard, harder than most to ‘get the math’ and he was always one of the most positive people in the class. I cannot, to this day, picture Seth’s face without a huge grin. He had such a knack for knowing if someone in the class was feeling down. Even if it might not have been his best friend, he would go over to that person and just check on them. These days, if you think about it, do you have any people at your job or in your neighborhood who do that? He was unbelievable. Always there to brighten someone’s day and sometimes that was my day, too. Having the chance to teach and work with Seth is a gift I have been given. His life has taught me so much about choosing to live and to dream big. His dreams were big and he worked at them to make them come true. When I think of Seth, I know he was a young man who had huge personal dreams of flying, he valued his friends and classmates a great deal, and nothing but his absolute best work was good enough for him. If someone needed him for anything, he was there.
“Simply put, if Seth had not volunteered to go to Afghanistan early, he would not have been there when his helicopter went down. He was due to deploy in November of 2009. He died on October 26, 2009. He died because he heard there was a pilot shortage over there and he wanted to help his fellow Marines. He volunteered to go early (several times before he was finally given the go-ahead to go early). Had he not been SETH, who always wanted to help out and give more than he could, he would never have given his life that October morning. That is the Seth Mitchell who will ALWAYS be my TRUE HERO. It is my truest honor to share the story of one of the most remarkable young people I have ever taught, Seth Mitchell, with each class who graduates from Loveland High School. I want them to know of his great heart, his selflessness, his work ethic, his dreams, his ever-present smile, his concerns for others, his fear of not reaching his dreams, overcoming that fear and living the life he was destined to live. He is a fellow Loveland Tiger who walked the same halls they walk, who sat in the same classrooms they sit in and who gave everything for each one of us. We can all learn from Seth’s life and his story. Life is too short. Live it. Don’t let it pass you by. Be there for each other. Dream and dream big. Reach for the stars and maybe you will make it out there among them. – Julie Powers
We encourage all of the Loveland community to come together to support Captain Seth Mitchell on September 21st at the Hero 5k so that we can continue to spread the unbelievable amount of kindness, selflessness, and bravery Captain Mitchell showed everyone on a regular basis. If you would like to get involved visit the official Captain Seth Mitchell Hero 5k website.
Watch this LOVELAND MAGAZINE TV video of the 2017 Hero 5K and listen to Greg Carpinello talk about why Seth’s friends are keeping his memory alive. Also included in the video is Marisa Sobb reading a letter from scholarship winner Katie McElveen describing how Seth Mitchell inspired her community spirit.