Fallen SEALs Believed In Their Mission
By Jeff Lukens

Several weeks back, we heard news of many Navy SEALs dying in an Afghanistan helicopter crash. This tells the riveting story of what happened. In the age of e-mails and blogsites, the soldiers themselves are best at telling the news from the front lines. The following is paraphrased from a lengthy and detailed e-mail circulating around the military community. All I know of this man is that his first name is George, and he is soon to return home from Afghanistan.

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On June 28, 2005, a four-man SEAL reconnaissance team was trying to find Taliban in the dense mountainous and forested area of the Kunar Province of Afghanistan. They were trying to identify routes that they use to enter from Pakistan. The SEALs were spotted and engaged by somewhere between 25 to 50 Taliban insurgents.

The Taliban used Rocket Propel Grenades (RPGs), mortars and small arms to attack the SEALs. The SEALs set up a 360-degree defense and called in for help. Headquarters for U.S. Forces moved a Predator drone over the battle area and soon located the SEALs.

Headquarters could see that the SEALs were encircled and that the enemy was too close to them to use close air support. A weather front was rapidly coming into the area and the SEAL Commander asked permission to launch his quick-reaction force to go rescue his men. The Task Force Commander agreed to fly the mission.

The Night Stalkers specialize in high-risk insertion and extraction at night. It was not nightfall yet and the command hesitated because sending the helicopter into the area in the light was very risky. The generals looked at the screen that was giving a live feed of the fire fight, they saw that the SEALs were surrounded, they did not see a way for them to escape, a weather front was coming, it was dusk but not dark yet and time for the trapped men was running out.

Leadership requires having the guts to make a decision, based on analysis and forethought. You must totally recognize the risk and be ready to accept the results. The general in charge made the right call.  He had to try to rescue the SEALs. We as American soldiers cannot leave our people on the battlefield; everyone has to know that when they go down range and things go wrong to keep fighting and help will come.

The decision was made, two CH47 helicopters headed toward the SEALs. The CH47 is large but fast for a helicopter, able to fly at 170 knots. They entered the mountains flying at 50 feet above the ground with 16 men aboard. All four SEALs were still alive and fighting an unbelievable battle.

As the lead helicopter approached the landing zone they started to slow down and the air speed dropped under 100 Knots, another group of Taliban, not engaged in the initial firefight but in the area saw the aircraft and opened fire with small arms and RPG's. An RPG hit the lead helicopter but the aviator managed to keep it in the air.

They were in the mountains and there was no clear place to land. He flew for about a mile and saw a ledge that he could try to put it down on. The bird landed on the ledge hard, they almost made it. The hard landing and the palpitations of the rotors were too much for the small landing zone and weak ground. The aircraft rolled off of the ledge onto its side and down the mountain into the valley below. The 16 SEALs and aviators were gone.

The other aircraft could not land in the hot landing zone and was called back. There was not enough time to try to secure the area because the weather front moved in and nightfall fell. The SEALs kept fighting and used the cover of darkness to crawl out of the initial enemy lines. The SEALs were engaged again and had a running gun battle for over two hours. The SEAL that survived was knocked unconscious by a mortar round and found that he was alone when he woke up. Two of his team members were dead close by, and the last team member was missing.

They had dropped all none essential gear during their escape all contact with them was lost. Eventually the surviving SEAL ran into a villager who took him to his house. That shepherd, at great risk to himself, protected the SEAL until he could be moved six hours away to the nearest U.S. forces that the villager was aware of.

Everyone did what they supposed to on that day, the SEAL recon team kept fighting, the SEAL commander went to get his shipmates, the Night Stalkers volunteered to fly into harms way to rescue their brothers in arms, and the generals had the guts to make the right decision. That is all you can ask for out here.

George goes on to say, "I really appreciated America before I came to Afghanistan but this experience has truly opened my eyes to how blessed my life has been. Folks, I know this is a cliché, but freedom is not free. Embrace it, respect it and don't ever stop fighting for it. These people over here are far from free, but we have given them a taste of it. We need to ensure that we don't give up the fight because to do so would be to dishonor all the men and women who have died to ensure we remain free."

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You can make a direct connection between our soldier's service and sacrifice and the way we live here at home. We, as a country, have collectively decided to fight the terrorists. Those who lost their lives believed in that mission, as do those who are over there now. They were not forced into the war. They volunteered, and they do it for us. To honor the memory of the fallen, and to do what's right, we too should believe in that mission, and not waver from it until it is complete.

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