WESTPORT, Conn. – Roger Muchnick, one of the seven Marines killed Monday in Nevada during a military training exercise, grew up in Westport and graduated from Staples High School in 2008. He was 23.
John Dodig, principal of Staples High School for the past nine years, fondly recalled Muchnick’s high school days.
“Roger was a great, charming, athletically talented young man. Everyone liked him,” Dodig said Wednesday morning. “He was outgoing, vibrant, funny and the type of person who could walk into a room and fearlessly go talk to anyone.”
While at Staples, Muchnick played football and lacrosse, he said. The school held a moment of silence in his honor Wednesday morning, Dodig said.
Muchnick, who served tours in Afghanistan and Kuwait, got involved with sports at a young age, said family friend Carmen Roda, director of the Westport Police Athletic League and one of Muchnick’s former coaches. He joined the Westport PAL football program in third- or fourth-grade and played through eighth-grade, Roda said. He also played in the Westport PAL lacrosse program.
“Roger was one of those kids it was hard not to love,” Roda said. “I was fortunate enough to watch him develop and grow as a student and an athlete. He’s one of those players I never forgot.”
After Muchnick graduated from the PAL program, Roda said they stayed in contact throughout high school, and beyond. His death, Roda said, is a tragedy.
“When I received a phone call yesterday [about Muchnick’s death], I was very emotional,” Roda said. “It’s just heartbreaking. My heart goes out to his parents, his brother, his two sisters, and to those other families who lost a child.”
His parents no longer live in Westport.
Muchnick attended Eastern Connecticut State University, where he played for the men’s lacrosse team. He completed his freshman year and then joined the Marine Corps., said Justin Axel, the head men’s lacrosse coach at Eastern.
Axel recalls Muchnick as always having a smile on his face and someone who made others smile. Although his time at Eastern was short, Axel said Muchnick made a positive impact there.
“Roger was the kind of kid that could light up a room instantly. Had an electric personality that a lot of people were attracted to,” Axel said. “He was charismatic, caring, fearless, and he worked hard. He made a lot of people around him better.”
Out on the field, Axel said Muchnick was a “hard-nosed, physical player.” The men’s lacrosse team is planning to honor Muchnick’s memory by wearing the number 36—his jersey number—on their helmets for the rest of the season, Axel said.
The Associated Press reports Muchnick and six other Marines were killed Monday night at Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada after a mortar round exploded during a training exercise. Eight others were reported injured, and of those, one died in the hospital.
The identities of those killed have not yet been released. However, Muchnick’s grandfather, Jerome Muchnick of Philadelphia, told the AP his grandson was one of the Marines killed.
“This is a sad day for Westport where Roger grew up,” First Selectman Gordon Joseloff said in a statement. “He is the second Staples graduate on active duty with the Marines to die in an accident in little more than three years, and our community once again is in shock. Our hearts go out to the Muchnick family and friends. We deeply share their loss.”