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Hundreds honor Guardsmen who died in plane crash

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — With empty boots and helmets as sad symbols of fallen comrades, hundreds of mourners gathered at airfields to honor three Florida Guardsmen killed in a plane crash.

Chief Warrant Officers Johnny Wayne Duce and Erik Paul Arson and Staff Sgt. Robert Franklin Ward Jr., were killed March 3 when their C-23 Sherpa cargo plane crashed in a field near Unadilla, Ga.. Also killed were 18 members of the Virginia National Guard, who were passengers on the plane.

About 400 people gathered in Lakeland and another 500 in Jacksonville to honor Duce, the pilot, and the two crewmen. Gov. Jeb Bush, who attended the Jacksonville ceremony, compared their deaths to those who perished on the battlefield of Gettysburg during the Civil War.

"They leave a legacy for all of us to remember," the governor said.