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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Carrying the Weight

By Andrew D. Parker

With the web transforming the frequency of the news cycle from daily/weekly to hourly/by-the-minute updates in recent years, it’s easy to miss—or filter out due to information overload—significant events. It’s impossible to follow all the world’s news in a single day, let alone actually think about it. The downing of a U.S. Army National Guard Boeing CH-47D Chinook on Aug. 6 in the Wardak province of Afghanistan is a significant event, but not just because of the loss of 30 U.S. and eight Afghan troops on a military, strategic or national level (see Military Insider, “An Inevitable Casualty of War” by Military Editor Andrew Drwiega).

It’s important because it marks the loss of 38 fathers, husbands, sons, brothers, cousins and friends. Families bear the largest burden of war. Long after this story fades from the headlines and is forgotten by the collective consciousness, these 38 families will continue to feel the impact of losing a family member before their time.

“After a decade of combat our soldiers are tired,” noted Maj. Gen. Anthony Crutchfield, the commander of U.S. Army Aviation, as part of a speech about the hidden costs of war on military families during Quad-A earlier this year (See Fighting is a Family Thing,” from April 28, 2011 Military Insider).

Wherever your personal beliefs lie in regards to the Afghanistan war, it’s important to honor these 38 individuals by taking a moment to pause and reflect on their lives, which is why I’m dedicating half of this column to the 30 names released by the Department of Defense. While the lasting effects of losing highly trained SEAL operatives is ultimately a temporary setback to the U.S. military, it pales in comparison to the impact felt by the wives, mothers, sisters, brothers and other family members who have lost their husband, son or brother.

Do me a favor: Take five minutes and read these names aloud, whether by yourself or to family and friends. Take a moment to explain to the young ones why it’s important to recognize the sacrifices military personnel—and their families—make in committing to the cause. Recognize that the soldiers in the skies and on the ground are not the ones who decide to go to war, and should not have to bear the political consequences of the government’s decisions.

When reading through the personal stories that have emerged in the two weeks following the crash, the motto of the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) Pararescue comes to mind: “That Others May Live.” These brave souls gave their lives so that the rest of us can live ours to the fullest. In my book, that’s still the ultimate sacrifice.

Honoring the Fallen

The following is a list of 30 U.S. personnel who died in the Chinook crash in Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense. Seven Afghan troops and an interpreter were also killed in the crash:

U.S. Navy SEALs: Lt. Cmdr. Jonas B. Kelsall; Special Warfare Operator Master CPO Louis J. Langlais; Special Warfare Operator Senior CPO Thomas A. Ratzlaff; Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Senior CPO (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist) Kraig M. Vickers; Special Warfare Operator CPO Brian R. Bill; Special Warfare Operator CPO John W. Faas; Special Warfare Operator CPO Kevin A. Houston; Special Warfare Operator CPO Matthew D. Mason; Special Warfare Operator CPO Stephen M. Mills; Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician CPO (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist/Diver) Nicholas H. Null; Special Warfare Operator CPO Robert J. Reeves; Special Warfare Operator CPO Heath M. Robinson; Special Warfare Operator PO1 Darrik C. Benson; Special Warfare Operator PO1 (Parachutist) Christopher G. Campbell; Information Systems Technician PO1 (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist) Jared W. Day; Master-at-Arms PO1 (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist) John Douangdara; Cryptologist Technician (Collection) PO1 (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist) Michael J. Strange; Special Warfare Operator PO1 (Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist) Jon T. Tumilson; Special Warfare Operator PO1 Aaron C. Vaughn; and Special Warfare Operator PO1 Jason R. Workman.

The following SEALs were assigned to a West Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit: Special Warfare Operator PO1 Jesse D. Pittman and Special Warfare Operator PO2 Nicholas P. Spehar.

Five other U.S. personnel died in the crash: CWO David R. Carter; CWO Bryan J. Nichols; Sgt. Patrick D. Hamburger; Sgt. Alexander J. Bennett; and Spc. Spencer C. Duncan. Airmen involved in the crash were Tech. Sgt. John W. Brown; Staff Sgt. Andrew W. Harvell; and Tech. Sgt. Daniel L. Zerbe.

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