Gary Marc Farwell, known as Marc to his family and Gary to his Army friends, died Wednesday in a helicopter crash during a routine training mission in Germany.

Farwell, 39, was a decorated combat veteran and chief warrant officer 3 in the U.S. Army. A Utah native, he enlisted in the Army in 1996 and had served for 14 years.

Farwell spent his early years in California, Japan and Texas while his father, who also is named Gary, attended medical school. The elder Gary Farwell also served two tours in Okinawa, Japan, and one in San Antonio before settling down in Orem.

As a young boy, Gary Marc Farwell was very adventuresome and loved the outdoors, said his mother, Louise Farwell, of Farmington, Ark.

Gary Marc Farwell, whose passion was flying, served two tours in Afghanistan and two tours in Iraq where he flew UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

"He comes from a long line of patriotic people," said his mother. "He's got a strong military background."

Gary Marc Farwell lived in Orem for eight years and attended Bonneville Elementary School, Orem Junior High School and the Waterford School, which was then located in Provo. He was an avid skier and fly fisherman and loved to hike.

Gary Marc Farwell served a mission for the LDS Church in Boston, Mass. He graduated from Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho, and then graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in history on June 9, 1995. He was working on a master's degree at the time of his death.

"Marc had a deep love of life, a sharp sense of humor and an enthusiasm for the outdoors and history," said his father.

After graduating from the University of Utah, the Gary Marc Farwell enlisted in the Army at age 26 and earned the Senior Aviator Badge, the Expert Infantryman's Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Parachutist Wings and numerous Air Medals — two for valor. He also qualified and served as a senior instructor pilot for the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.

"Chief Farwell's skill as a pilot was exceeded only by his devotion as a father, husband, son, sibling and friend," his father wrote.

Gary Marc Farwell married Tawnya Spaulding after a courtship through handwritten letters, which began when her mother saw a picture of Gary on his aunt's refrigerator.

They have three children, Ashlyn, 12; Ethan, 8; and Isabella, 3. They have resided in Germany for the past seven years, most recently in Reutlingen, near Stuttgart. His four deployments have been from Germany.

While living in Europe, their family has taken advantage of all the sights to see and things to do, such as skiing in the Swiss Alps and lying on the beach in Greece.

"He's done several really heroic things," Louise Farwell said of her son. "He's been a real good soldier."

Gary Marc Farwell's friends in the Army agree with his mother. Upon hearing of his death, many friends turned to his Facebook page to share memories of their times with him.

"While flying above you in Afghanistan, I watched the most amazing rescue I've ever seen to this date. Your skills as an aviator, and sheer determination to save soldiers' lives were absolutely unmatched. Flying through an Afghan river valley easily no wider than two lengths of your rotor, and under enemy fire, you meticulously maneuvered your aircraft to pick up one of our wounded SF brothers. I was absolutely amazed. Gary, it was an honor to serve with you," Brian Hummel wrote.

"As skilled and knowledgeable as you were, you where always the epitome of humility and professionalism," Paul Moriarty wrote.

Matt Farwell, Gary Marc Farwell's younger brother who followed in his brother's footsteps in joining the Army, said the posts about Gary Marc Farwell are completely accurate.

"Everyone on his Web site is going to be talking about what an awesome pilot he was — and he totally was," Matt Farwell said.

Gary Marc Farwell began his training in the Marine Corps, but it did not work out for him. Although he faced challenges and it sometimes took him a while to figure out what he wanted to do, his brother said that once he did decide he was fully committed and he became the best.

"I think characteristics that really define him are just an incredible empathy and an ability to keep steady even when he wasn't sure where he was going, and then he'd just ratchet it up as soon as he had a full idea of where he was going," Matt Farwell said.

Gary Marc Farwell was requested for special missions because of his piloting skills, and once people saw what he could do, they kept him around as long as possible, his brother said.

"The fact that he chose to fly Black Hawks — which bring people into the fight, but most importantly they bring people out of the fight — that was his way of being a peaceful warrior because his best thing was he saved lives," Matt Farwell said. "There were the medals on his chest, but those were only a small reflection of the light that was in his chest."

The playful dad of three made sure he always sent pictures while he was away and spent every chance he had with his children when he was home.

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"There was just something special about the way that he worked with his kids, and I think it had to do with his empathy and his level of kindness," Matt Farwell said.

His family has set up garymarcfarwell.com, a Web site where donations can be made to a fund for his children.

"As far as I'm concerned, he went out at the top of his game doing something he loved and doing it really well," Matt Farwell said. "You can't deny that there was honor and meaning in his job."

e-mail: ejames@desnews.com