Dispatches > News
Charles Strange III and sister Katelyn (Photo by David Maialetti/The Philadelphia Inquirer/AP)

Remembering the fallen

Dads. vets among SEALs killed in Afghanistan

Issue: "Back to School," Aug. 27, 2011

The day after President Obama made a somber journey to Dover, Del., to salute the remains of 30 U.S. troops from Afghanistan, NATO announced that its forces had tracked down and killed the Taliban fighters responsible for shooting down their helicopter.

The Aug. 6 attack resulted in the largest single day's loss of American life since the start of the Afghan war-as Taliban fighters using a rocket-propelled grenade shot down the Chinook helicopter, killing 30 U.S. soldiers, including 22 Navy SEALs, and eight Afghan soldiers.

"The crash they were in was so horrific and the state of remains such that there was no easy way to see this was this person or this was that person," said Van Williams, the public affairs chief for the Dover Air Force Base's mortuary affairs operations, which handles the bodies of all fallen soldiers.

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Most of those aboard were SEAL Team Six members, the same elite counterterrorism group that killed Osama bin Laden, though none of those killed took part in the bin Laden raid, according to military officials.

The team was flying to rescue soldiers pinned under fire in a valley west of Kabul, in one of the thousands of nighttime operations by special forces in Afghanistan.

One member, Matthew Mason, had lost part of his left arm during fighting in Iraq in 2004. Others, like Aaron Vaughn, 30, left behind wives and young children. Kimberly Vaughn said on NBC's Today show that her 2-year-old and 2-month-old "will take away his love for Christ." Vaughn's grandmother Geneva Vaughn said, "He's with Jesus today . . . he told us when we saw him last November that he wasn't afraid."

Elizabeth Strange said of her son Michael Strange, 25, "He was supposed to be safe . . . and he told me that, and I believed him. I shouldn't have believed him because I know better."

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD Magazine from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emlybelz.


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