Speaking on the death of ChiefWarrant Officer David R. Carter, who was aboard the CH-47 Chinook transport helicopter downed by the Taliban insurgents on August 6, 2011, Army Colonel Chris Petty said “There’s a big hole in our organization today.” And, that hole was made even larger with the deaths of 29 other military personnel aboard the same helicopter as Carter. A brief glimpse into the lives of these 30 courageous men affirms Petty’s sentiments.
U. S. ChiefWarrant Officer Sergeant Alexander J. Bennett, 24, of Tacoma, Washington, assigned to 7th Battalion 158 Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation on Batallion). Bennett’s mother, Kim Robertson, said her son died doing the job he dreamed of doing from his childhood. Bennett moved to Kansas from Tacoma to deploy with the unit based there. Bennett, a flight engineer and door gunner, had hopes of becoming a pilot.
Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class Darrik C. Benson, SEAL, 28, Angwin, California. Darrik’s grandmother, Claudia Benson, said that when her grandson left his Virginia home for his Afghanistan deployment, a toy airplane belonging to his son, Landon, was packed with his gear. It was reported a toy airplane was found at the Chinook crash site.
Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer Brian R. Bill, SEAL, 31, Stamford, Connecticut, medic, assigned to 24th Special Tactics Squadron. Bill was a man of many talents. He was a skier, triathlete, an Eagle Scout, an accomplished mountain climber, and a pilot. Bill’s ambition was to go to graduate school and become an astronaut.
U.S. Army Technician Sergeant John W. Brown, 33, Tallahassee, Florida, killed in Wardak province in Afghanistan. Brown’s mother, Elizabeth Newlun, said of her son, “He was a gentle giant.” Brown and his wife, Tabitha, had no children. Brown will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
U.S. Navy Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL/Parachutist) Christopher G. Campbell, 36, of Jacksonville, North Carolina. A 1993 graduate of White Oak High School, Campbell played football, baseball, and basketball. Campbell also loved the beach and surfing. He is survived by his wife, Angelina, daughter, Samantha, and parents Larry and Diane Campbell. Campbell will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
U. S. Army ChiefWarrant Officer David R. Carter, 47, of Centennial, Colorado, assigned to 135th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), U. S. Army National Guard. Carter’s neighbor, Yolanda Levesque, called him “an outstanding father, a true Christian, and a pilot.” He is survived by his wife, Laura, son, Kyle, and daughter, Kaitlen. The couple would have celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in December. Carter was one of two co-pilots of the CH-47 Chinook downed by enemy fire on August 6, 2011.
U. S. Navy Information Systems Technician Petty Officer 1st Class, SEAL, Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist, Jared W. Day, 28,Taylorsville, Utah. In a People magazine article, the parents of Day said “Jared joined the United States Navy because he loved this country, the people who live here, and the freedoms we all have.”
U. S. Navy Master-at-Arms Petty Officer 1st Class, Expeditionary Warfare Specialist, SEAL, John Douangdara, 26, South Sioux City, Nebraska. A 2003 graduate of South Sioux City High School, Douangdara was described by those who knew him as easy going, and who put family and friends first. John’s mother, Sengchanh, said her son loved his job, and that it was a job he chose. The Douangdara’s came to the United States 31 years ago from Laos. Douangdara was the dog handler for SEAL Team 6, and will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Working Military Dog (WMD), Bart, a member of SEAL Team 6. Bart, a Belgian Malinois breed, died along with his handler, John Douangdara, aboard the CH-47 Chinook helicopter shot down by hostile enemy fire on August 6.
U. S. Army Specialist Spencer C. Duncan, assigned to 7th Battalion 158th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), 21, Olathe, Kansas. Friends say, Duncan, a graduate of Olathe South High School, once said the things he missed most were “Kansas sunsets, and lying in a truck bed listening to the radio, and cuddling with his sweetie.”
U. S. Navy Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer, SEAL, John W. Faas, 31, Minneapolis, Minnesota. A 1998 graduate of Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, Faas was captain and quarterback of the football team. Faas, a martial arts aficionado, had earned a Black Belt in Tae Kwan Do by the time he was twelve years old. Faas was also an avid reader of classical, religious, and warfare literature.
U.S. Navy Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer Kevin A. Houston, 35, SEAL, West Hyannisport, Massachusetts. A 1994 graduate of Barnstable High School, Houston captained the football team in his senior year. Houston’s mother, Jan Brown, said of her son: “He was born to be a SEAL.” Houston leaves behind a wife, and three children.
U. S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Jonas B. Kelsall, SEAL, 32, Shreveport, Louisiana. Kelsall joined the military after graduating from Caddo Magnet High School. Kelsall was one of the first members of SEAL Team 7, and was the mission leader of the ill-fated tactical operation that ended with the downing of his CH-47 Chinook helicopter on August 6, 2011. Kelsall leaves behind his wife of three years, Victoria.
U. S. Army Staff Sergeant Andrew W. Harvell, 26, assigned to 24th Special Tactics Squadron, Long Beach, California. Harvell’s high school coach described him as having the “heart of a lion” and a “terrier-type mentality.” Harvell is survived by his wife and three children in North Carolina.
U. S. Army Sergeant Patrick Hamburger, 30, assigned to 2nd Battalion 135th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), Grand Island, Nebraska. U.S. Army National Guard. Chris Hamburger said that his brother, Patrick, had planned to propose to his girlfriend when he returned home.
U. S. Navy Special Warfare Operator Master Chief Petty Officer, SEAL, Louis J. Langlais, 44, Santa Barbara, California. A member of SEAL Team 6, Louis was born in Quebec, Canada. Louis’ parents, Dr. Louis-Marie and Marguerite Langlais moved to the United States when he was still a young child. Louis leaves behind his wife, Anya, two sons, a sister and two brothers.
U. S. Navy Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer Matthew D. Mason, SEAL, 37, Kansas City, Missouri. Mason was an avid runner, and to prove just how much running was a part of his life, he completed a triathlon within five months of sustaining severe injuries while serving in Fallujah, Iraq. Mason’s wife is expecting their third child.
U. S. Navy Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer Stephen M. Mills, SEAL, 36, Fort Worth, Texas. Mills served on a naval destroyer for three years prior to joining his SEAL team. Mills has three children, Cash, Bryce and Zoe from a previous marriage.
U. S. Army ChiefWarrant Officer Bryan J. Nichols, 31, assigned to 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), Hays, Kansas. Nichols is a graduate of Thomas More Prep-Marion High School. He was highly regarded by those he took orders from, and those he worked alongside. Nichols was co-pilot on the CH-47 Chinook helicopter downed by hostile enemy fire on August 6, 2011.
U. S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Chief Petty Officer Nicholas H. Null, SEAL, 30, Washington, West Virginia. A 1999 graduate of Parkersburg South, Null is survived by his wife, Tanya, and their three sons.
U. S. Navy Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class Jesse D. Pittman, SEAL, 27, Ukiah, California. A 2002 graduate of Willits High School, Pittman is remembered by those who knew him as a person with tremendous drive to succeed at whatever he set out to do.
U. S. Navy Nancy Senior Chief Petty Officer Thomas A. Ratzlaff, SEAL, 34, Green Forest, Arkansas. Speaking on behalf of the Ratzlaff family, Jeff Adam, said his uncle “he did what he loved, and died defending those he loved, and those who loved him.” Ratzlaff leaves behind two children, and his wife, who is expecting their third child in November.
U. S. Navy Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer Robert J. Reeves, SEAL, 32, Shreveport, Louisiana. Reeves is one two native Shreveport, Louisiana Navy SEALs killed in the August 6, 2011 downed CH-47 Chinook helicopter in Wardak province, Afghanistan. Reeves, a member of SEAL Team 6, was known to be a prankster among his fellow soldiers, and first to volunteer for a new mission.
U. S. Navy Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer Heath M. Robinson, 34, SEAL, Petoskey, Michigan. A 1995 graduate of Petoskey High School, Robinson played football. Upon learning of Robinson’s death, Petoskey High School athletic director, Gary Hice, responded, “It’s pretty devastating.”
U. S. Navy Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 2nd Class Nicholas P. Spehar, SEAL, 24, St. Paul, Minnesota. A 2005 graduate of Chisago Lakes High School, Spehar excelled both academically and athletically. Chisago’s high school principal, Dave Ertle described Spehar as a “quiet leader.”
U. S. Navy Cryptologist Technician (Collection) Petty Officer 1st Class Michael J. Strange, SEAL, 25, Cryptologist Technician Collection, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A graduate of North Catholic High School, Michael enjoyed snowboarding, surfing, scuba diving, running, and shooting guns on the range. The Strange family was planning a Thanksgiving holiday celebration when Michael returned home.
U. S. Navy Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class John T. Tumilson, SEAL, 35, Rockford, Iowa. The funeral service for Tumilson has become the focal point for the personal and national grief felt at the death of the men aboard the CH-47 Chinook helicopter shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade on August 6, 2011. Video of Tumilson’s dog, Hawkeye, lying beside his master’s coffin said what words could not.
U. S. Navy Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class Aaron C. Vaughn, Seal, 30, Stuart, Florida. Vaughn is remembered by his grandmother, Geneva Vaughn, as a “tough warrior” but a “gentle man.” Vaughn leaves behind his wife, Kimberly, son, Reagan, and daughter, Chamberlyn.
U. S. Navy Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Senior Chief Petty Officer Kraig M. Vickers, SEAL, 36, Kokomo, Hawaii. Vickers death came just five days before his 37th birthday. Vickers’ wife, Nani, is expecting their fourth child.
U. S. Navy Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class Jason R. Workman, SEAL, 32, Blanding, Utah. Service to country runs deep in the Workman family. Jason’s brother is a graduate of West Point. Friend, Tate Bennett, said that Workman’s desire to be an exemplary soldier was solidified after the terrorists attacks of 09/11/2001.
U. S. Army Technical Sergeant Daniel L. Zerbe, 28, Airman, Special Tactics Squadron, York, Pennsylvania. A 2001 graduate of Red Lion Area High School, Zerbe is remembered by friends as someone who could make you laugh, even when you didn’t want to. Zerbe played football, and was a member of the wrestling team.
As of September 4, 2011, the United States military casualty total for “Operation Enduring Freedom” stands at 1,756. Afghanistan is proving to be a dark and bleak hole that consumes the blood and treasure of the strongest of nations.