July 13, 2005

U.S. Afghan base honors fallen commandos

Afghan Base Holds Tribute for Commandos (link)

BAGRAM, Afghanistan (AP) - Hundreds of U.S. troops gathered Wednesday at the main American military base in Afghanistan for an emotional tribute to 11 Navy SEAL commandos killed in recent fighting, honoring them as "the very best of the best."

Three of the 11 were members of a four-man special forces unit that disappeared on June 28 in mountains in eastern Kunar province, near the border with Pakistan. All are believed to have died in a firefight with militants on the day they disappeared. The fourth was rescued July 3.

The eight others killed were on a special forces helicopter shot down while trying to rescue the four. Also killed on the chopper were eight members of the 3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, a unit of elite Army helicopter crews that flies commandos behind enemy lines under cover of night.

"Our hearts are heavy with grief and the overwhelming sense of complete loss of our friends who were with us and then taken all at once," said Col. Pat Higgins, special forces commander in Afghanistan. "No words of mine can adequately express the sorrow we feel at the loss of so many." [Neither can our words, brothers. --ed.]

About 700 troops attended the service at Bagram air base, 30 miles north of the capital, Kabul. Standing in a row were photographs of the 11 men and 11 rifles.

Many troops cried as a slide projector flashed photos of the 11 on a screen - some showing the men standing and smiling with Afghan civilians or posing in front of a helicopter. The closing image was of a line of caskets draped in American flags in the back of a transport airplane.

"Each one of these men was a unique and gifted individual with hopes and dream and fears," Higgins said. "They came from different homes and different backgrounds. They came together to be part of an elite brotherhood of warriors to rise to the challenge of being the very best of the best. And they were the best of the best."

"They knew the danger they faced. They faced it anyway. Not one hesitated," he added. "We lost some who made a last stand against impossible odds. We lost others because they went in to rescue their friends."

May God rest their souls...

Posted by Kyer at July 13, 2005 08:26 PM | TrackBack