Navy Constructionman Mychael Flint, 21, Fort Ann, NY
FORT ANN -- He had a smile recognized by all, was a key high school soccer player, and served as a U.S. Navy sailor.
Twenty-one-year-old serviceman Mychael Flint of Fort Ann died Monday in an accident at Camp Pendleton, a Marine Corps training base near San Diego, said his uncle, John Winchell, also of Fort Ann.
Flint died when a military vehicle rolled over at about 8 a.m. Monday, killing him and another sailor and slightly injuring a third, said Cmdr. Greg Hicks, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy's 3rd Fleet.
"He always brought a smile to people's face," Winchell said.
The sailors were in a seven-ton water truck, taking part in a military exercise.
Flint was involved in a construction battalion, the Navy equivalent of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Winchell said.
He left behind his parents, Amy and Bob Pecue, and 15-year-old sister, Kaitlyn, of Fort Ann.
Flint grew up in Fort Ann, and graduated from high school there in 2008. He and his soccer teammates made it to the sectional championship game, winning the Class D title in 2006.
"He was a good part of the team because he kept things light," said Brian Farenell, an Adirondack soccer club coach for Flint. "He worked hard, but he made sure everyone was having fun."
His parents attended every game they could, said Winchell, whose wife is the sister of Flint's mother.
At times, Flint would give up a better grade if it meant a better laugh in a class project, said his 11th- and 12th-grade social studies teacher, Mark Cusson.
He said he remembers Flint's big smile, twinkling eyes, and the feeling he had, as his teacher, that something was up.
"He wanted it to be entertaining, he was a prankster ... but in a happy way," Cusson said.
"He was like everybody's little brother," he said. "He was very upbeat, very positive."
Flint sought out Cusson, a Navy veteran, outside of class to talk about how he would do in the Navy.
"If he put his mind to it, he did it," Winchell said.
Flint joined the Navy in 2009, and was stationed in San Diego after training in Great Lakes, Ill. and Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
Flint set military service as an early career goal, wore camouflage cargo pants to school events and was a recipient of the Future Veterans' Award at commencement. The award is given in honor of Fort Ann graduates who enlisted in the Armed Forces.
"We were all very proud of Mike when he joined the Navy," said Dan Ward, principal of Fort Ann High School, who also coached Flint on the junior varsity soccer team and taught him in a science class.
In snapshots taken during his high school years, Flint was fair-haired and baby-faced. He wore braces, which gleamed behind a wide smile. Flint, whose given name was Mychael, preferred to be called Mike.
"He was a good kid who only wanted to make everyone's day brighter," Ward said. "He made class entertaining. He often had something witty to say or a joke to share. He liked to make people smile."
As a soccer player, he was small for his age, and skinny. He made it up for a lack of size with a competitive nature.
"He was scrappy and played big," said Brian Farenell, who coached Flint with the Adirondack Soccer Club, where he was an all-star regional player as a striker and midfielder. "Mike wasn't afraid to mix it up with anybody. His fearlessness was what made him effective."
Flint was a member of the Fort Ann High School soccer team that won the Class D sectional title in 2006.
"If we were losing a game or were having a tough practice, Mike would crack a joke or say something funny to lift our spirits," recalled Sean Driscoll, 20, an Adirondack Soccer Club teammate. "Mike was the energizer bunny on our team. He kept us all motivated."
"He was a definite asset for the school," Cusson said. "He made the place a happier place."
FORT ANN, N.Y. – "Mike was a practical joker, he was looking for a laugh at all times," Fort Ann High School principal Dan Ward said of former student, Mychael Flint.
"He was a mischievous kid and he got braces pretty late, so that only accentuated his grin,” social studies teacher Mark Cusson said. “It was more of a grin, a big toothy grin, than a smile."
Ever the prankster, Mychael Flint left a lasting impression at the Fort Ann Central School, where he graduated from in 2008.
On Monday, the 21-year-old Navy sailor died in a training accident at Camp Pendleton in California after a vehicle he and two others were riding in rolled over.
"It's unbelievable,” Ward said. “Mike had joined the service and we were all very proud that he had made that choice. It seemed he really had the drive to be a part of something special and serve his country and to lose him after made that great choice is pretty heartbreaking."
A Navy spokesperson confirmed Flint and one other sailor, Daniel Shirar, 27, of Baytown, Texas, died in the accident Monday and that one other was injured.
Flint joined the Navy in 2009 following high school, where he played varsity soccer for two years.
"I know the family really well,” Fort Ann boys soccer coach Rich McCabe said. “His uncle also played for me and all of his cousins and our hearts go out to the whole family. It's a terrible tragedy."
Each teacher at the school has their own memory of Flint. Ward remembers the time he hammed it up at a pep rally before a big soccer match.
"It was very entertaining for everybody there,” said Ward, who keeps a photo of Flint’s performance in his office. “He really laid it out on the line and performed for everybody there and gave everybody a great laugh."
Social studies teacher Mark Cusson, himself a Navy veteran, says he remembers lots of little things, but it's a letter Mike wrote him before graduation he holds most dear.
"Dear Mark, and he never called me Mark, he was just being funny,” said Cusson as he recited Flint’s letter, which he keeps posted on a wall in his classroom with letters from other students.
“The past few years have been wonderful. I would like to thank you for the great and fun times we've had together. You've made me the mature adult that I am - not - today. Love, Mike Flint."
"It tears me up,” Cusson added. “I guess I would consider myself fortunate that I did get the opportunity to tell him that I'm very proud of him and continue to be. I'm very proud of Mike."
Navy Constructionman Mychael Flint was killed in a training accident on 3/7/11.