Maj. Sareen was from San Diego, California.
Maj. Taj Sareen; photo courtesy of KGO/ABC7news.com
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA: An Indian American Marine, from San Diego, California, Maj. Taj Sareen, 34, died Wednesday when the F/A-18C Hornet he was flying crashed near a U.S. base in England. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
Sareen joined the Marine Corps Feb. 13, 2005, and served in Afghanistan in 2010. He was a member of the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232, stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, according to ABC 7 News.
The father of Maj. Sareen told NBC San Diego that his son was a “man among men” who was inspired to become a pilot by the movie “Top Gun.”
Kulbhushan Sareen spoke with NBC 7 Thursday, recalling how his son first spoke about flying the high-powered aircraft after he saw the movie starring actor Tom Cruise as “Maverick.”
“He had enough discipline to achieve it. He went for it,” Kulbhushan Sareen said.
Taj Sareen was even scheduled to attend the Navy’s pilot training center in January, his father said, according to NBC.
Taj Sareen was a pilot with a pilot in Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 232, stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. He was deployed as part of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response Central Command 15.2 and was returning with his squadron after a six-month deployment at the time of the crash.
A native of Hillsborough, California, Taj Sareen was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 and became an instructor at Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 101.
Taj Sareen loved living in San Diego and was planning on buying a home in Encinitas when he returned, his family said.
Taj Sareen was on his third deployment when he crashed. His father said his son accomplished everything he set his mind to – so much so, that he grew to look up to his son.
“He lived his life the way he wanted to,” he added. “When he was growing up, he used to watch and observe me. When he grew up he became so good that I started watching and observing him and trying to emulate him,” Kulbhushan Sareen said.
Kulbhushan Sareen said he didn’t sleep the night after learning of his son’s death but said he didn’t cry.
“Every thought that came to my mind was happiness, joy, being proud of him. And that was the kind of person he was,” he said. “If he walked into a room, it was like joy walking into a room.”
MCAS Miramar released a statement saying, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and fellow Marines of Major Sareen, and we are currently providing support to those affected by this tragic incident.”
ABC 7 News reported that whenever Taj Sareen was away he’d speak with his family every day.
His parents and sister want people to know what kind of man Sareen was. They told ABC7 News about the last conversation they had with him that they will never forget.
“I’ll see you in two days dad,” Kulbhushan Sareen said.
Sareen had a tightly knit family. His mother, father and sister have lived at their Hillsborough home for the past 17 years, reported ABC.
“The only sad thing is we won’t be able to see him or touch him anymore,” Kulbhushan Sareen said.
The family heard a jet crashed in Taj’s squadron at 6 a.m. Wednesday and many painful hours without information followed after that. “Three Marine officers walked towards our house. They said, ‘it was your son,’ devastating,” the father said, reported ABC.
Maj. Sareen was in one of six jets coming back to the states from the Persian Gulf when it crashed in England. He ejected, but did not survive. Initial reports say one of his final moves was to avoid crashing into homes on the way down.
Sareen graduated from the University of San Francisco in 2004. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps as an FA-18 pilot in 2005. “It’s really a sad loss,” said Chuck White, whose son was one of Sareen’s best friends.
White called his son Thursday morning to see if he had heard about Sareen’s death. He said his son couldn’t even speak through his tears. “He was kind of an iconic hero for all of us. He was just a great guy,” White said.
The two played tennis together at the University of San Francisco. Peter Bartlett remembers recruiting Sareen. “He was a great teammate. He was very supportive, very respectful. He came from a good family. It’s one of those things as a coach I can’t ask for too much more,” Bartlett said.
Those who knew Sareen at USF say he had a certain flair to him. Many say flying an F-18 fighter jet suited his personality.
Now the tennis staff and alums plan to dig through boxes for old pictures so they can remember and grieve together. “I’m torn up about it. You don’t know how to deal with it at first. It’s like losing a kid. I feel so much for their family,” White said, reported ABC.
A GoFundMe account has been set up, for Maj. Sareen’s daughter Jade. Click here if you would like to make a donation.