35, from Belgrade, Maine, assigned to HMLA-469, MAG-16, 3rdMAW, 1stMEF, died on October 29, 2009 during a night time aviation mishap off the coast of San Diego.
Major Samuel Carson Leigh made national headlines when the AH1-Super Cobra that he was piloting was struck from behind by a C-130 Coast Guard plane off the coast of San Diego during the early evening on Thursday, October 28, 2009. The Coast Guard transport plane was carrying seven crew members heading south from Sacramento, CA while on a routine search and rescue at sea. Along with Major Leigh, First Lt. Thomas Claiborne, 26, of Douglas, CO also lost his life. Both Marines were affiliated with the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469. “Sam”, as he was known by his closest friends, had decided as early as 3 years of age that he wanted to be a Marine. It wasn’t until he met a Naval pilot while attending Brunswick Elementary that he decided he wanted to fly. His parents Ann and David Leigh, were teachers at Messalonskee High School teaching English and Social Studies respectively. At Messalonskee “Carson” as he was known by his classmates, was a friend to all that knew him. In the classroom, Carson strived to achieve top marks and on the field he played soccer, basketball, club lacrosse with the same passion. He was a “Boy’s State” representative and while he did not pursue a career in politics he did carry on the family’s tradition of serving in the armed forces. Both of Carson’s grandfathers were World War II veterans and his uncle was a pilot in Vietnam. In their stead “Sam” went on to attend Norwich University, a military college in Vermont. While attending Norwich University he continued to develop into a leader. Discipline, integrity, confidence, critical thinking, adaptability, loyalty, and honor are the core values instilled in those who attend Norwich University. His family and closet friends would be the first to tell you that he always possessed these traits. After graduating from Norwich University in 1996, “Sam” enlisted as a Marine officer. As a Marine “Sam” quickly rose among the ranks, where he would achieve the rank of Major. He served two tours of duty in Iraq and was expecting to go to Afghanistan for a third tour of duty. His specialty was training new pilots. He took great pride in teaching his craft to those who dreamed of being a Marine aviator. His mentorship didn’t just stop at teaching new recruits but was spread to all who had a passion to become a military aviator. Unbeknownst to most of his colleagues Major Leigh was a major contributor (over 2500 posts) to a website devoted to providing new and fellow military aviators with “gouge” or helpful information and instruction on all things pertaining to aviation in the military. “Sam” really enjoyed the life he chose and was going to be a career Marine.
To honor Major Samuel C. Leigh, his parents, David and Anne Leigh of Belgrade, Maine, donated this stone to The Summit Project. The stone comes from the Belgrade Lakes in Maine and was a 70th birthday gift to Samuel’s father, David.