June 28, 2005 – Part #2 – Sixteen soldiers die while on rescue mission!
On that fateful day, June 28, 2005, those of us who were milbloggers were shocked to learn of the tragic deaths of the eight Nightstalkers and Navy Seals. Many of us, myself included, frequented a nightstalker blog. I clearly remember thinking, my God, was he one of those guys killed? This incident, and a few others I won’t go into here, made me terribly aware of the war from an entirely different perspective. Not only were we getting on the spot news from the front written with dynamic skill, we were no longer removed from the pain of loss by distance or lack of family relationship. The war had become much more personal and painful!
I found this write-up at the Arlington Cemetary Website. It is a complete breakdown of the names of those brave men who died that day in 2005:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of eight soldiers and eight sailors who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Soldiers killed were:
Sergeant Shamus O. Goare, 29, of Danville, Ohio
Chief Warrant Officer Corey J. Goodnature, 35, of Clarks Grove, Minnesota
Sergeant Kip A. Jacoby, 21, of Pompano Beach, Florida
Sergeant First Class Marcus V. Muralles, 33, of Shelbyville, Indiana
Master Sergeant James W. Ponder III, 36, of Franklin, Tennessee
Major Stephen C. Reich, 34, of Washington Depot, Connecticut
Sergeant First Class Michael L. Russell, 31, of Stafford, Virginia
Chief Warrant Officer Chris J. Scherkenbach, 40, of Jacksonville, Florida
All of these soldiers were assigned to the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), Hunter Army Air Field, Georgia
Sailors killed were:
Chief Petty Officer Jacques J. Fontan, 36, of New Orleans, La.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Daniel R. Healy, 36, of Exeter, N.H.
Lt. Cmdr. Erik S. Kristensen, 33, of San Diego, Calif.
Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffery A. Lucas, 33, of Corbett, Ore.
Lt. Michael M. McGreevy, Jr., 30, of Portville, N.Y.
Petty Officer 2nd Class James Suh, 28, of Deerfield Beach, Fla.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric S. Patton, 22, of Boulder City, Nev.
Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffrey S. Taylor, 30, of Midway, W.Va.
Healy, Patton and Suh were assigned to SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team One, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Fontan, Kristensen, Lucas, McGreevy and Taylor were assigned to SEAL Team Ten, Virginia Beach, Virginia
All 16 were killed while conducting combat operations when the MH-47 helicopter that they were aboard crashed in the vicinity of Asadabad, Afghanistan in Kumar Province on June 28, 2005.
“The Night Stalkers formed after a failed attempt to rescue hostages in 1981 in Iran. The group, which has been deployed in most major military operations since its formation, has lost 21 soldiers since 2002.”
A “Tribute’ by the home base of those Nightstalkers who died:
“The memorial displays for eight fallen Night Stalkers stand during a memorial ceremony held July 7 at Hunter Army Air Field, Ga. The eight perished when their MH-47D crashed in Afghanistan June 28. Nightstalkers remembered at the ceremony were Maj. Stephen C. Reich, 34, of Washington Depot, Conn., Chief Warrant Officer Chris J. Scherkenbach, 40, of Jacksonville, Fla., Warrant Officer Corey J. Goodnature ,35, of Clarks Grove, Minn., Sgt. 1st Class Marcus V. Muralles, 33, of Shelbyville, Ind., Sgt. 1st Class Michael L. Russell, 31, of Stafford, Va., Staff Sgt. Shamus O. Goare, 29, of Ohio
and Sgt. Kip A. Jacoby, 21, of Pompano Beach, Fla., assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). Also honored was Sgt. 1st Class James W. Ponder, III, 36, of Franklin, Tenn., assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 160th SOAR(A) based at Fort Campbell, Ky. (U.S. Army photo by Kelly Ann Tyler)”
Last month those brave Nightstalkers were further honored:
RELEASE NUMBER: 070608-01
DATE POSTED: JUNE 08, 2007
Night Stalker hangar named in honor of ‘Turbine 33’ crew
By Kimberly T. Laudano
160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment Public Affairs
HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. (USASOC News Service, June 8, 2007) – A Hunter Army Airfield hangar has a new name honoring the memory of an eight-person Night Stalker crew who died in combat on June 28, 2005.
The 3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) hangar, formerly known as Building 7902, is now named “Turbine 33” after the aircraft crew’s call sign. It was formally dedicated in a ceremony at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., on June 7.
“Today should not be a day of sadness, but rather a day to pay tribute and honor to the memory of the crew of Turbine 33,” said Lt. Col. Manfred L. Little, Commander, 3rd Bn.
Nearly two years ago, the crew died when their Chinook helicopter crashed after being struck by enemy fire during combat operations in Afghanistan while deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Those honored through the hangar dedication are: Maj. Stephen C. Reich, Chief Warrant Officer Four Chris J. Scherkenbach, Chief Warrant Officer Three Corey J. Goodnature, Sgt. 1st Class Marcus V. Muralles, Sgt. 1st Class Michael L. Russell, Staff Sgt. Shamus O. Goare, and Sgt. Kip A. Jacoby, who were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 160th SOAR(A), at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.; and Master Sgt. James W. Ponder, III, who was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 160th SOAR(A), at Fort Campbell, Ky.
“Each of these men loved their country and they were willing to put their lives on the line not only for each other but for the special operations ground forces they supported,” said Little. “They unselfishly sacrificed their lives in the hope that others might live. These men were heroes in the truest sense of the word.”
Little told the audience of Soldiers, families and friends that the Army’s best facilities, aircraft and equipment are unique to the 160th, but those technologies are not what truly makes the regiment special. “It’s the Night Stalker Soldier,” he emphasized.
“The 160th has been blessed since its inception to attract the best pilots, crew chiefs medics and support personnel that our country and our Army has to offer,” he said. “This is particularly true of our heroes that we are here to honor today.”
Their names, likeness and assignment, along with the circumstances of their death, are engraved on a plaque prominently displayed near the hangar entrance. The visual will serve as a reminder of sacrifice and living the Night Stalker Creed for this and future generations of Night Stalkers.
“Thousands of Soldiers will come and go through this hangar through the years to come,” Little told his battalion. “Whenever you enter it or drive by, remember the valor, the service and the ultimate sacrifice our fallen heroes made for this nation.”
Hanger Turbine 33 will house the battalion’s Chinook helicopter companies. The hangar has been entered into the National Archives as an Army memorial and the call sign ‘Turbine 33’ has been retired from operational use.
The Navy Seals
First a more thorough accounting of the rescue of the only survivor of the four  seals on the ground that fateful day in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005:
*How the Shepherd Saved the SEAL*
/Exclusive: The tale of an Afghan’s amazing rescue of a wounded U.S. commando/
By TIM MCGIRK/KABUL
Posted Monday, Jul. 11, 2005
A crackle in the brush. That’s the sound the Afghan herder recalls hearing as he walked alone through a pine forest last month. When he looked up, he saw an American commando, his legs and shoulder bloodied. The commando pointed his gun at the Afghan. “Maybe he thought I was a Taliban,” says the shepherd, Gulab. “I remembered hearing that if an American sticks up his thumb, it is a friendly gesture. So that’s what I did.” To make sure the message was clear, Gulab lifted his tunic to show the American he wasn’t hiding a weapon. He then propped up the wounded commando, and together the pair hobbled down the steep mountain trail to Sabari-Minah, a cluster of adobe-and-wood homes–crossing, for the time being, to safety.
What Gulab did not know is that the commando he encountered was part of a team of Navy SEALs that had been missing for four days after being ambushed by Taliban insurgents during a reconnaissance mission in northeastern Afghanistan. An initial search mission to find the missing SEALs ended in disaster on June 28, when a Chinook helicopter carrying 16 service members was shot down over Kunar province, killing everyone aboard, in one of the deadliest attacks so far on U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Since then, the bodies of two of the missing SEALs have been recovered; another is still classified as missing, though the Taliban claims he was captured and beheaded.
One member of the team did survive. Though the military has not released the name of the SEAL (the U.S. military seldom gives out the names of its special-operations personnel), TIME pieced together his story on the basis of briefings with U.S. military officials in Afghanistan plus an exclusive account of how Gulab, an Afghan herdsman, rescued the wounded commando. What emerges is the tale of a courageous U.S. fighter facing impossible odds in unfamiliar terrain, stalked by the enemy and stripped of everything but his gun and his will to survive. But it is also a story of mercy and fraternity, showing that even in the war-scorched landscape of the Afghan mountains, little shoots of humanity sometimes have a chance to grow.
The clashes in Kunar province have highlighted a worrying surge in violence in Afghanistan, where 15,000 U.S. troops are based. Several months ago, U.S. and Afghan officials claimed the Taliban was a spent force. But the Islamist fighters and their al-Qaeda allies have sprung back with fresh recruits, new weaponry and advanced bombmaking skills passed on to them by terrorists in Iraq, officials in Kabul say.
It was in response to signs of a mounting threat from Taliban fighters that the four-man commando team found itself in the Afghan forests of Kunar province on June 28, maneuvering under low clouds and a drenching rain. The mission, code-named Operation Redwing, was to find and engage the enemy. But in late afternoon, the commandos sent back a one-line message to the “Ark,” a coalition-forces operations room in Kabul. Accompanied by a warning chime, it read, “Troops in contact.” Translation: a fire fight was under way.
That was the SEALs’ last message. The tracking devices each carried went dead, possibly because the men ditched their heavy rucksacks so they could move unburdened, a U.S. official says. Within minutes of receiving the message, eight commandos and eight crewmen of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment piled into an MH-47 Chinook helicopter and sped out to help the trapped men.
According to accounts provided to U.S. commanders by the surviving Navy SEAL, the commando team had come under fierce attack from a large group of Taliban fighters, who pounded their location with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and a steady hail of small-arms fire. The clatter of the approaching Chinook may or may not have been audible to the SEALs, but the Taliban surely heard it. A second band of fighters turned and took a bead on the chopper, probably with a rocket- propelled grenade, and in what a U.S. official calls “a pretty lucky shot,” knocked it out of the sky.
Now the four SEALs were truly alone. With night falling and the fog settling, they managed to slip through the Taliban fighters. Crawling and scrambling, they headed toward the high ridges, and the Taliban–who had them outnumbered, probably 5 to 1–gave chase.
U.S. officials say the commandos kept up a running fire fight with their pursuers for more than two miles. The known survivor recalls seeing two of his friends shot. At one point he blacked out, possibly from a mortar round landing close by. When he regained consciousness, two of his teammates–Petty Officer 2nd Class Danny Dietz, 25, and Lieutenant Michael Murphy, 29–were dead, and a third had vanished in the darkness and fog. The surviving SEAL dragged himself at least another mile up into the mountains. It was there he was found four days later by Gulab the shepherd.
After taking the SEAL to Sabari-Minah, Gulab called a village council and explained that the American needed protection from Taliban hunters. It was the SEAL’s good fortune that the villagers were Pashtun, who are honor-bound never to refuse sanctuary to a stranger. By then, said Gulab, “the American understood that we were trying to save him, and he relaxed a bit.”
The Taliban was not so agreeable. That night the fighters sent a message to the villagers: “We want this infidel.” A firm reply from the village chief, Shinah, shot back. “The American is our guest, and we won’t give him up as long as there’s a man or a woman left alive in our village.” As a precaution, the villagers moved the injured commando out of Gulab’s house and hid him in a stable overnight, until it was safe for Gulab to make the six-hour trek down to the U.S. base at Asadabad and report that the SEAL–by then the subject of an intense search–was alive. Sometime later, Gulab went back to his village and then returned to Asadabad with the commando, this time reuniting the wounded and weary SEAL with his jubilant comrades.
The relief at recovering the missing commando has been tempered by the heavy loss of American life–and the knowledge that more fighting lies ahead. The Taliban’s offensive shows no sign of waning and is apparently aimed at sabotaging September’s parliamentary elections. U.S. Colonel Don McGraw, director of operations of the Combined Forces Command in Kabul, says that in the chaos of Afghanistan today, it is hard to distinguish among what is the work of the Taliban, drug traffickers and criminal gangs.
It is a testament to the persistent insecurity in Afghanistan that Gulab now fears that his act of compassion may mean his death warrant. After returning the SEAL, he went back to grab his family and flee before the Taliban would come round seeking revenge. In the mountains of Kunar, fear is rising again. –With reporting by Muhib Habibi/Asadabad
Credit:mk at militaryphotos.net
This next tribute will probably bring tears to your eyes; but, it gives us an excellent understanding of the men who become Navy Seals, what they believe in, where they get their strength of courage? It is a “Navy SEAL Tribute” to ten  of the Navy Seals who died on June 28, 2005:
Navy SEAL Tribute: By Rear Admiral Joseph Maguire
Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, I rise today to recognize and pay tribute to the 10 courageous sailors who lost their lives in <Afghanistan> during Operation Enduring Freedom on 28 June 2005 by printing the eloquent words of U.S. Navy RADM Joseph Maguire, Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command, during a memorial speech at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek on July 8, 2005.
I ask unanimous consent to print this tribute in the RECORD.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
(By Rear Admiral Joseph Maguire)
Good Morning. On behalf of the Commander, United States Special Operations Command, General Doug Brown, the United States Navy, the proud men and women of Naval Special Warfare, I’d like to welcome everybody to this morning’s memorial service for our ten fallen Sailors.
We’re honored to have with us today the leaders of our nation and our Navy. We are joined this morning in grief. The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John Warner, Congresswoman Thelma Drake, our local Congresswoman, Ambassador Joseph Prurer and Mrs. Prurer, Undersecretary of the Navy Aviles, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Willard and Mrs. Willard. The Commander Fleet Forces Command, Admiral Nathman and Mrs. Nathman, and the General Council of the United States Navy, Mr. Mora. In addition to that we have many general officers [From the joint services, retired community, retired Flag Officers. I’d also like to extend a welcome to our many veterans here today, our combat veterans.
I would also like to extend a warm welcome to our families in Naval Special Warfare, especially to the families of Squadron Ten, whose husbands are still deployed and engaged in combat operations far away. But most importantly I’d like to welcome the families of the ten SEALs that we honor here today. Earlier in this week I along with General Brown and many others have been attending memorial services for our United States Army Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the 160th, located at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and Hunter Army Air Field, where as you all know we lost eight brave Special Operations Aviators.
This morning we pause to honor the memory of ten Navy SEALS, in particular the six SEALS who were home ported here at the Naval Amphibious Base in Little Creek. I’d also like to extend a welcome to those who can’t be with us physically in this theater right now. The theater holds 1800 people and we filled that up earlier this morning. And for those of you in the overflow where we have nearly 2000 people seated, I welcome you this morning and I apologize that we did not have space for everybody to be in here physically. But I know, spiritually, that you’re with us and we sincerely appreciate you being part of the ceremony this morning.
My remarks will be short. I think it’s important that you hear from the friends and loved ones, and also Commodore Pete Van Hooser has got some very important things to say.
But what I would like to say as the Commander for Naval Special Warfare and the head of this community, how proud I am to be the Commander for Naval Special Warfare and have the opportunity to lead and serve with these ten fine men. Naval Special Warfare is the smallest war fighting community in the Navy. There’s 1750 enlisted men and six 600 officers. We’re a small town, we literally know each other, and honestly, for those of you it may be hard to believe if you see the way we act with each other, we love one another.
Everything that you see here and everything this morning was put together by their Teammates. I’d like to call your attention to the operational equipment that we have forward here on stage. It traces its proud heritage back to World War II. The Underwater Demolition Teams and the Navy Combat Demolition Units and you’d have to go all the way back to World War II to get the number of Naval Special Warriors who died in one day in one military operation. The loss of one SEAL, the loss of one military man is more than we could possibly bear, but to have ten or our brave men perish in one day along with eight of our Nightstalkers is truly a remarkable day and one that will always be etched in our memory.
But before you though you have UDT swim fins, a UDT lifejacket, a web belt and a mask. And it may seem strange to you knowing that these Naval commandos died on a mountain top 7,500 feet in elevation in a country 300 miles from the sea. But our nation called. These are the same people that flew the planes into the Twin Towers that flew the plane into the Pentagon that also flew the plane into the ground in Pennsylvania. The Al Qaeda and the Taliban are barely distinguishable and these are the people that these brave men, these ten men, went out to meet and engage in combat. So although the operational equipment that they had on them that day on the 28th of June was not swim fins, not a UDT life jacket, not a mask, perhaps a K-Bar. We thought it’s appropriate because we are first and foremost warriors from the sea, Navy men, that we honor them today as SEALs and Navy men.
The last thing I’d like to just mention is the knife that’s on the web belt. The K-Bar also dates back to the knife used by the UDT in World War II. And a tradition in Naval Special Warfare when a young man finishes his training and is awarded his trident, when he is awarded his trident he is also presented a K-Bar, and on that K-Bar is inscribed the name of a SEAL who went before him, where he died, and the date he died on. So that knife would always link him to the past and serve as an inspiration to him as a SEAL in combat in the future. These ten knives that we have up here are now etched with your husbands, your son, your brother, your father, your uncle, your nephew, your neighbor, your friend, and to us our Teammates names. You can take these home with you today, and I hope that you treasure them, but what I want you to know is that in the future when fellow SEALs become SEALS and they are presented with their K-Bars, the name of these men will be engraved to serve as an inspiration to future SEALs in combat, our teammates.
And I want to leave you with this. We have a creed, we have many things in Naval Special Warfare, but to sum it up, it is loyalty to our teammates dead or alive. These ten men are no longer with us, that doesn’t mean that our allegiance and our covenant ends with them today. We will remain their teammates forever and to the family members sitting here, always know that we will always be there from them, always there for you and, we will always stay connected. God bless and thank you.
I’d like to go into the awards presentation now and I ask all of the guests and military to remain seated as we make the presentations so that all can see.
The Silver Star Medal, Bronze Star Medal with Valor, Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon and <Afghanistan> Campaign Medal will be presented posthumously for the actions in the following citation below.
On Tuesday 28 June 2005, thirty members of Naval Special Warfare Task Unit-<Afghanistan> were preparing to conduct a direct action mission when they were tasked to respond as a Quick Reaction Force to reinforce a four-man Navy SEAL reconnaissance element engaged in a fierce firefight near Asadabad, Konar Province, <Afghanistan>.
The reconnaissance element was bravely fighting Anti-Coalition Militia, who held both a numerical and positional advantage. The ensuing firefight resulted in numerous enemy personnel killed, with several of the SEALs suffering casualties.
After receiving the task to reinforce, the Quick Reaction Force loaded aboard two MH-47 U.S. Special Operations Army helicopters planning to air assault onto a hostile battlefield, ready to engage and destroy the enemy in order to protect the lives of their fellow SEALs. Demonstrating exceptional resolve and fully comprehending the ramifications of the mission, the Quick Reaction Force, while airborne, continued to refine the plan of attack to support both the reinforcement task and hasty execution of their intended deliberate assault.
As the helicopter approached the nearly inaccessible mountainside and hovered in preparation for a daring fast-rope insertion of the SEALs, the aircraft was struck by an enemy rocket-propelled grenade fired by Anti-Coalition Militiaman. The resulting explosion and impact caused the tragic and untimely death of all SEALs and Army Night Stalkers onboard.
These men answered the call to duty with conspicuous gallantry. Their bravery and heroism in the face of severe danger while fighting a determined enemy in the Global War on Terror was extraordinary. Their courageous actions, zealous initiative and loyal dedication to duty reflected great credit upon themselves, Naval Special Warfare, and the United States Navy. For the President, Vern Clark, U.S. Navy, Chief of Naval Operations.
The presentations this morning will be made by Commodore Pete Van Hooser, Commander, Naval Special Warfare Group Two and Master Chief Chuck Williams, Command Master Chief of SEAL Team Ten.
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Bronze Star Medal with Valor, Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, and <Afghanistan> Campaign Medal posthumously to LCDR Erik Kristensen, United States Navy.
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Bronze Star Medal with Valor, Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon and <Afghanistan> Campaign Medal posthumously to LT Mike McGreevy, United States Navy.
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Bronze Star Medal with Valor, Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, and <Afghanistan> Campaign Medal posthumously to Chief Fire Controlman Jacques Fontan, United States Navy.
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Bronze Star Medal with Valor, Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, and <Afghanistan> Campaign Medal posthumously to Electronics Technician 1st Class Jeffrey Lucas, United States Navy. Accepting his father’s awards is his son, Seth Lucas.
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Bronze Star Medal with Valor, Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon and <Afghanistan> Campaign Medal posthumously to Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Jeffrey Taylor, United States Navy.
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Silver Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, and <Afghanistan> Campaign Medal posthumously to Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Danny Dietz, United States Navy.
Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, I would like to associate myself with these exceptional remarks by Admiral Maguire. Our great country will forever owe these courageous SEALs a debt of gratitude for their selfless actions in battle on June 28, 2005. While I am sorry that the families of these men have suffered such an irreplaceable loss, I am proud that America produced such fine gentlemen who valiantly answered the call to defend these United States. Recalling our national anthem, I say, we would not be “the land of the free” were we not also the “home of the brave.”
Mr. President, I rise today to recognize and pay tribute to the 10 courageous sailors who lost their lives in <Afghanistan> during Operation Enduring Freedom on June 28, 2005, by reading the eloquent words of U.S. Navy CAPT Pete Van Hooser, Commander, Naval Special Warfare Group Two, during a memorial speech at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek on July 8, 2005.
I ask unanimous consent to print this tribute in the RECORD.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
(By CAPT Pete Van Hooser)
I am always humbled in the presence of warriors. We have been in sustained combat for over 3 years-things have changed.
I find myself speaking in public a lot more than I would like, but I always start by thanking four groups of people. The first are our warriors who haven fallen; the second, those who have guaranteed that those who have fallen will not be left behind. Some with their bravery, others with lives.
I thank those who have selflessly pulled themselves off the line to train the next warriors to go forward-so that they may surpass the prowess of those currently engaged.
And I am thankful for the families that nurture such men.
My remarks will be focused on these families and the men who wear the trident. We would not be able to do our jobs without the brave men and women of the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps. Task Unit-<Afghanistan> of Naval Special Warfare Squadron Ten, was comprised of SEAL Team Ten and SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team Two and One, had many U.S. Navy rates other than SEALs that trained and deployed by our side, and we recognize and are grateful for the professional efforts of all. But this time and this place is about the SEALs.
Leonidas, the Spartan King, hand-picked and led a force to go on what all knew to be a one-way mission. He selected 300 men to stand against an invading Persian force of over 2 million. They were ordered to delay the advance the Persian Army. Selecting the battlefield was easy-the narrow mountain pass at Thermopylae restricted the combat power that the enemy could apply-allowing the superior fighting skills of the 300 Spartans to destroy the will of this Persian Army to fight. These Spartan warriors died fighting to the last man.
The Persian invaders were defeated by the Greek Army in later battles. Democracy and freedom were saved.
Most know this story. But most of us don’t know how Leonidas selected the 300 men. Should he take the older seasoned Warriors who had lived a full life, should he take the young lions that felt they were invincible, should we take the battle-hardened, backbone-proven warrior elites in their prime, or should he sacrifice his Olympic champions?
The force he chose reflected every demographic of the Spartan Warrior class. He selected those who would go based solely on the strength of the women in their lives. After such great loss, if the women faltered in their commitment, Sparta would falter and the rest of Greece would think it useless to stand against the Persian invaders. The democratic flame that started in Greece would be extinguished.
The Spartan women were strong. They did not falter. I would even argue that we live in a democracy and have freedom because of the strength, skill, and courage of these 300 men and the extraordinary will and dedication of the women in their lives.
The women in our lives are the same. I see the pride in their wearing of the Trident symbol-I hear it in their voices when they are asked what is that symbol, and they say my husband, my son, my brother, or my dad is a Navy SEAL-usually they say nothing more.
If I were to say to the families, I feel your pain, that could not be so. I can never know the depth of your relationship or the anguish of your personal loss. What I can say is the truth I know. Those who wear the trident provide only brief glimpses into our world to those on the outside. Even our families see only a limited view of the path we have chosen. We are all different, but on the inside we share many common beliefs and actions. We spend most of our adult lives with other SEALs preparing for battle.
On this occasion I feel compelled to share our innermost thoughts. I want to show you a little more of our world so you can understand the way we see, the way we feel about what happened.
There is a bond between those who wear a trident-that is our greatest strength.
It is unique to this very small community. It is unique in its intensity. It is nurtured by the way we train-the way we bring warriors into the brotherhood. This bond is born in BUD/S. It starts to grow the first time you look into the eyes of your classmate when things have gone beyond what you or he thinks is possible. It grows in the platoon as you work up for deployment, and it grows around the PT circle. It’s the moving force behind every action in a firefight. This bond is sacred. This bond is unspoken, unconditional, and unending.
When it comes to fighting we are all the same inside. During the first stages of planning, at the point where you know you are going into the battle, we think about our families. The master chief passing the word to the boys sums it up, “I am going home to my kids and you are going home to yours. Here is our next mission.”
We never stop planning-we never stop thinking through every contingency-we want to cover every anticipated enemy action. This is the way we face the risk.
There is a significant difference between inserting on a mission where there may or may not be enemy contact or serious resistance and inserting into a fight where forces are already engaged. On 11 April, the men of this task unit-during their initial week in <Afghanistan>, immediately shifted from a helicopter training scenario directly into the fight as a quick response force to help soldiers and marines in a desperate battle. They made the difference-saving the lives of our fellow servicemen and destroying the enemy.
Last week when these fallen warriors launched on this mission, their SEAL teammates were fighting the enemy-fellow SEALs were in peril-as always in the teams-in this-situation there is no hesitation. It is not about tactics-its about what makes men fight.
As you are going in hot-you can’t help it-you must allow one more small block of personal time. You think of those at home-the people you-the people you left behind. For this brief moment, there is no war.
Our souls have touched a thousand times before this moment
Boundless undefined shadows quietly surging through and waking each other
On a moonless star rich night we patiently wait for the dawn
There is no distance
You smile a cool wind that takes away thirst
I will never know hunger
I have never known fear
It’s the same bond-now your focus returns to your SEAL teammates. Total focus on the approaching fight is all that exists.
In April, when I heard of the Task unit’s first contact that very first week in country-when I saw the reports of the enemy casualties they had inflicted-I was happy but not too happy. Its was more of a quiet internal sharing of a sense of satisfaction they had executed flawlessly.
Last week when I was told of their deaths and saw what they were trying to accomplish, I was sad-but not too sad. It was more of a quiet and internal recognition that they had gone to the wall, and there was no hesitation. They were warriors-they are SEALs
We are not callous. We don’t have the luxury of expressing our emotions at will. In these times our duty is to press on and finish the fight, for all depends on each man’s individual actions.
We answer to a higher moral calling on the path that requires us to take and give life. It is this dedication to ideals greater than self that gives us strength. It is the nurturing of our families that gives us courage. Love is the opposite of fear-it is the bond that is reinforced when we look in the eyes of another SEAL that drives super human endurance. My teammate is more important than I.
The enemy we face in <Afghanistan is as hard and tough as the land they inhabit. They come from a long line of warriors who have prevailed in the face of many armies for centuries. It is their intimate knowledge of every inch of the most rugged terrain on earth that is matched against our skill, cunning, and technology.
They are worthy adversaries and our intelligence confirms that they fear and respect us. They have learned to carefully choose their fights because as SEALs we answer the bell every time.
When you see the endless mountains-the severe cliff-the rivers that generate power that can be felt while standing on the bank-the night sky filled with more stars then you have ever seen-when you feel the silence of the night were no city exists-when the altitude takes your breath away and the cold and heat hit the extreme ends of the spectrum-you cannot help being captured by the raw strength of this place.
This is a great loss. These men were some of the future high-impact leaders of naval special warfare, but I take refuge in the thought that there is no better place a warrior’s spirit can be released then the Hindu Kush of the Himalayas.
In their last moments, their only thoughts were coming to the aid of SEAL brothers in deep peril. I can say that any one wearing a trident would gladly have taken the place of these men even with full knowledge of what was to come.
Some of those on the outside may understand that the one man who was recovered would possibly make this loss acceptable. Only those who wear the trident know, if no one had come back, it would all have been worth the cost.
These men are my men. They are good men. The SEAL teams-this path is my religion. This loss will not go unanswered.
I am always humbled in the presence of Warriors.
Mr. President, I would like associate myself with these exceptional remarks by Captain Van Hooser. Our great country will forever owe these courageous SEALs a debt of gratitude for their selfless actions in battle on June 28, 2005. While I am sorry that the families of these men have suffered such an irreplaceable loss, I am proud that America produced such fine gentlemen who valiantly answered the call to defend these United States. Recalling our national anthem, I say, we would not be “the land of the free” were we not also the “home of the brave.”
Credit:mk at militaryphotos.net
~ by devildog6771 on July 13, 2007.