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Saluting SEALs, Soldiers and Airmen

Legacy.com / Nick Ehrhardt

Saluting SEALs, Soldiers and Airmen

On August 6, 2011, an American CH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down by insurgents in Afghanistan. The crash killed 30 U.S. servicemen, making August 6 the deadliest day for the U.S. military in the history of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Eight Afghans were in the helicopter and also died in the crash.

The helicopter carried 22 Navy SEALs, most of whom were a part of the mission that killed Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011. Also killed were five U.S. Army soldiers and three U.S. Air Force airmen.

Names and photos of the 30 U.S. servicemen who died have now been released, allowing a saddened nation to properly thank and mourn these brave soldiers who gave their lives.

Robert ReevesSpecial Warfare Operator CPO (SEAL) Robert J. Reeves, 32, was from Shreveport, Louisiana. A 13-year U.S. Navy veteran, he served all over the world and earned four Bronze Star medals. A lover of adventure, Reeves enjoyed mountain climbing, BASE jumping, and flying, among other hobbies. In Reeves' Guest Book, he was remembered as a hero and a friend:

"For everything you did and stood for I thank you. To have known you and laughed with you, I am greatful. Thank you for your sacrifices and for that you will forever be a hero to everyone."

"Thank you for your service to our country, you will be missed by all. Thankfully I was able to know you through high school and college and was able to share some memorable moments in sports (lacrosse) and as friends."

"I'm so glad God gave us those last visits with you. Your love for KendraGrace and your complete selfless nature were a comfort and inspiration to us and will always continue to be. We will miss your jokes, laughter, voice."

His obituary notes his great sense of humor and loyalty to family and friends, as well as his drive to succeed (and his humility about his many successes).

Aaron VaughnSpecial Warfare Operator PO 1st Class (SEAL) Aaron C. Vaughn, 30, of Stuart, Florida, enlisted in the Navy on his 21st birthday, inspired by the events of 9/11/2001. He immediately began training to be a Navy SEAL, fulfilling a lifelong dream. A father of a 2-year-old son and a 2-month-old daughter, Vaughn deployed just weeks after his daughter's birth. Even when he was away from home serving his country, Vaughn was dedicated to his loving family. His mother summed him up: "Aaron was just a blessing to raise. He was the treasure. He loved God. He loved his family. He loved his wife and his babies and he loved his country in a way that most people don't even understand."

A high school football star and a hunter, Aaron Vaughn was the perfect SEAL (according to the Navy, athletes and hunters are among the best candidates for the elite SEAL teams). But he was more than just brawn: at the time of his death, he was working to complete his bachelor's degree.

Vaughn's wife finds comfort knowing how dedicated he was to his mission: "He wouldn't want to leave this Earth any other way than how he did. He loved his job. There was no way — even if you could tell him that this would have happened, he would have done it anyway. All those men are like that. They're selfless."

Brian BillSpecial Warfare Operator CPO (SEAL) Brian R. Bill, 31, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, also fulfilled a dream of being a Navy SEAL, enlisting in June 2001. A highly decorated sailor, he counted three Bronze Stars among his many honors and awards. He was an Eagle Scout who ran marathons, climbed mountains, and taught himself Russian.

A Facebook page in memory of Bill has more than 4,200 followers and includes tributes from friends and strangers alike. Visitors to the page remember Bill's many facets: his smile, his heroism, his athleticism, the way he helped set a friend on the right path. Messages continue to pour in both to the Facebook page and his Guest Book.

Brian Bill was one of several SEALs whose families suggest memorial donations to the Navy SEAL Foundation. This non-profit provides support to SEALs and their families by funding memorials, assisting families of deployed soldiers, providing scholarships and educational assistance, and more.

Alexander BennettSgt. Alexander Bennett, 24, of Tacoma, Washington, served with 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), New Century, Kansas. He trained as a helicopter mechanic.

 

Darrik BensonSpecial Warfare Operator PO 1st Class (SEAL) Darrik C. Benson, 28, of Angwin, California, was assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit. He was a decorated sailor with a Bronze Star and a Presidential Unit Citation among his awards.
 

John BrownTech. Sgt. John W. Brown, 33, of Tallahassee, Florida, served with 24th Special Tactics Squadron in Pope Field, North Carolina. Before joining the U.S. Air Force, he studied pre-med to become a pararescueman.

 

Christopher CampbellSpecial Warfare Operator PO 1st Class (SEAL) Christopher G. Campbell, 36, of Jacksonville, North Caroline, was assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit. An athlete like many of his fellow SEALs, he enjoyed basketball and football.
 

David CarterChief Warrant Officer David R. Carter, 47, of Centennial, Colorado, served in 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), Aurora, Colorado. His Army career let him live out his childhood dream of becoming a pilot.
 

Jared DayInformation Systems Technician PO 1st Class Jared W. Day, 28, of Taylorsville, Utah, served with an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit. Before his SEAL training, he was stationed at Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Atlantic Detachment in Keflavik, Iceland.
 

John DouangdaraMaster-at-Arms PO 1st Class John Douangdara, 26, of South Sioux City, Nebraska, was assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit. He earned a Bronze Star with a distinction for valor and a Presidential Unit Citation, among other awards.
 

Spencer DuncanSpc. Spencer C. Duncan, 21, of Olathe, Kansas, was assigned to 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), New Century, Kansas. He was a proud soldier who loved serving, but also missed his Kansas hometown.
 

John FaasSpecial Warfare Operator CPO (SEAL) John W. Faas, 31, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, served with an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit. He earned three Bronze Stars with valor distinctions and a National Defense Service medal, among other awards.
 

Patrick HamburgerSgt. Patrick D. Hamburger, 30, of Lincoln, Nebraska, was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), Grand Island, Nebraska. The helicopter flight engineer is survived by his fiancée and their 2-year-old daughter.
 

Andrew HarvellStaff Sgt. Andrew W. Harvell, 26, of Long Beach, California, was assigned to 24th Special Tactics Squadron, Pope Field, North Carolina. He was a combat controller.

 

Kevin HoustonSpecial Warfare Operator CPO (SEAL) Kevin A. Houston, 35, of West Hyannisport, Massachussets, served with an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit. After graduating high school in a wheelchair as a result of an accident, he became a SEAL just a few years later.
 

Jonas KelsallLt. Cmdr. (SEAL) Jonas B. Kelsall, 32, of Shreveport, Louisiana, was assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit. A University of Texas alumnus, he was in charge of the mission.

 

Louis LanglaisSpecial Warfare Operator Master CPO (SEAL) Louis J. Langlais, 44, of Santa Barbara, California, served with an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit. Before becoming a SEAL, he was part of the Navy Parachute team for three years.
 

Matthew MasonSpecial Warfare Operator CPO (SEAL) Matthew D. Mason, 37, of Kansas City, Missouri, served with an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit. The father of two sons, Mason was awaiting the birth of a third child with his wife in November.
 

Stephen MillsSpecial Warfare Operator CPO (SEAL) Stephen M. Mills, 35, of Fort Worth, Texas, was assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit. A 14-year Navy veteran with 10 years in the SEALs, Mills was the father of three children.
 

Bryan NicholsChief Warrant Officer Bryan J. Nichols, 31, of Hays, Kansas, was assigned to 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), New Century, Kansas. He passed his love for flying along to his 10-year-old son Braydon, who dreams of flying one day.
 

Nicholas NullExplosive Ordnance Disposal Technician CPO Nicholas H. Hull, 30, of Washington, West Virginia, served with an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit. His decorations included two Bronze Stars, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medals, and three Navy and Marine Corps Achievement medals.
 

Jesse PittmanSpecial Warfare Operator PO 1st Class (SEAL) Jesse D. Pittman, 27, of Ukiah, California, was assigned to a West Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit. Before serving on his last team, he served with the Naval Special Warfare Training Center Detachment in Kodiak, Alaska.
 

Thomas RatzlaffSpecial Warfare Operator Senior CPO (SEAL) Thomas A. Ratzlaff, 34, of Green Forest, Arkansas, was assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit. The high school linebacker started boot camp just weeks after his graduation and had always wanted to be a SEAL.
 

Heath RobinsonSpecial Warfare Operator CPO (SEAL) Heath M. Robinson, 34, of Detroit, Michigan, served with an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit. Among his many decorations were four Bronze Stars, three of which had special distinctions for valor.
 

Nicholas SpeharSpecial Warfare Operator PO 2nd Class (SEAL) Nicholas P. Spehar, 24, of St. Paul, Minnesota, was assigned to a West Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit. His awards included an Army Commendation Medal and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.
 

Michael StrangeCryptologist Technician (Collection) PO 1st Class Michael J. Strange, 25, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit. Serving his third term in Afghanistan, Strange was fulfilling a lifelong dream of a military career.
 

Jon TumilsonSpecial Warfare Operator PO 1st Class (SEAL) Jon T. Tumilson, 35, of Rockford, Iowa, served with an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit. His hometown neighbors remember him jogging through town when he would come home for a visit.
 

Kraig VickersExplosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Senior CPO Kraig M. Vickers, of Kokomo, Hawaii, served with an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit. A surfer, he was remembered with a "paddle-out" of more than 200 fellow surfers joining hands in his honor as they rode the waves at Virginia Beach.
 

Jason WorkmanSpecial Warfare Operator PO 1st Class (SEAL) Jason R. Workman, 32, of Blanding, Utah, was assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit. He spent time last year training police officers, and had planned to do so again this year.
 

Daniel ZerbeTech. Sgt. Daniel L. Zerbe, 28, of York, Pennsylvania, served with 24th Special Tactics Squadron, Pope Field, North Carolina. He was a wrestler and football player who joined the military in hopes of making a difference in the world.