Rest in peace, brave American heroes, you served your country well.
Army Specialist Spencer Duncan was the door gunner on the Army Chinook Helicopter. The 21-year-old is a graduate of Olathe South High School in Olathe, Kansas. He joined the Army in 2008, and had been deployed since May. Friends consoled each other in front of Duncan’s high school Sunday. His family released a statement saying they are proud of their son’s service. “We just can’t even grip that this is real but we just know he died doing what he wanted to do,” friend Mikayla Dreyer told ABC Affiliate, KMBC-TV in Kansas City.
Chief Petty Officer Robert Reeves, 32, died alongside a good friend he’d grown up with in Shreveport, La. He and Lt. Commander Jonas Kelsall, 33, were both on the doomed chopper. Reeves became a SEAL in 1999, and was a member of SEAL Team 6, earning four Bronze Stars for Valor.
Matt Mills, 36, was a recently married father of three who had served in the Navy for about 14 years. He saw combat every year since the war in Afghanistan began, his family told KEYE-TV in Austin. They described him as humble and funny. J.B. Abbott, Mills’ Counsin, said, “he served his country with pride. He loved his brothers he fought with. He was a loving person. . . he was a very respectful person.”
Lt. Commander Jonas Kelsall, 33, was one of the first members of SEAL Team 7, and had trained in San Diego. Kelsall’s father says his son met his wife of three years while studying at the University of Texas.
Petty Officer First Class Jason Workman, 32, had always wanted to be a Navy SEAL. He grew up in the small town of Blanding, Utah, but made his home in Virginia Beach with his wife and 21-month-old son. Described as smart, athletic and outgoing, his childhood friend Tate Bennett told Salt Lake City’s Deseret News, “We are so proud of someone like Jason being from a small town to become an elite special forces soldier. “His family is extremely heartbroken right now,” Blanding Mayor Toni Turke told ABC4 in Salt Lake.
Brian Bill, 31, hoped to return to school and one day become an astronaut, the Associated Press reports. He was already a pilot, a mountain climber and a triathlete. “He set his standards high,” Kimberly Hess, a friend who graduated with him in 2001 from Vermont’s Norwich University, told The Advocate newspaper. “He was remarkably gifted and very thoughtful. There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for you no matter the time or day.” The Stamford, Ct., native had just been promoted to Chief Petty Officer his family says. “Brian had so many dreams and things he wanted to do,” his father Scott Bill told the Herald-Tribune. “We’re very proud of everything he accomplished.”
Army Spc. Alexander Bennett, 23, had earned a reputation for his pranks on Marines and soldiers, the Sacramento Bee reports. After a 2009 deployment in Iraq, he moved from the Tacoma, Wash., area to Overland Park, Kansas, to be a flight mechanic. Friend Jessica Hall told KOMO-TV in Seattle that the 2005 Foss High School graduate had always wanted to be in the Military “I never met somebody that loved to do something as much as he did,” Hall said. “He was so selfless.”
Darrik Benson, 28, was born and raised in Angwin, a small town in Napa County, Calif. Friends say he was one of only 19 to finish his SEAL class in 2003. The Napa Valley Register says Benson family spokesperson Jodi Kelly told the paper the family is “devastated.”
Aaron Carson Vaughn
Aaron Carson Vaughn, 30, joined the Navy SEALS right out of boot camp and joined SEAL Team 6 in 2010. Vaughn leaves behind his wife Kimberly, a Fairfax county native, and two children, a 2-year-old son and a 2-month-old daughter.
John Brown’s mother called the 25-year-old Arkansas man “Rambo without the attitude.” The Air Force Tech Sergeant was a medic attached to the SEAL unit who had wanted to go to medical school before enlisting. Arkansas state Rep. Jon Woods, who went to high school with Brown, said, “when I think of the perfect soldier it’s John Brown.”
Jon Tumilson, 35, from Rockford, Iowa, “was going to be a Navy SEAL since I can’t remember when,” said Jan Stowe, a neighbor to the Tumilson family for more than 30 years. “He’s like a hero to everyone here.”
Kevin Houston, 36, from Barnstable, Mass, was a father of three who enlisted right out of high school to pursue his dream of being a Navy SEAL. “He said hi, I’m Kevin and I’m going to be a Navy SEAL,” friend Joe Kennedy remembers. Raised by a single mother, he was the captain of his high school football and basketball teams.
Piloting was 31 year old Chief Warrant Officer 2 Bryan Nichols’ dream, The Kansas City Star reports. He became one of his unit’s best, a rising star in its stable of skilled pilots. He was married with a ten-year-old son, Braydon. The Kansas native was just two weeks from coming home on leave.
At 26, Johm Douangdara was the lead dog handler for the elite SEAL Team Six, his family says. A 2003 South Sioux City, Neb., High School graduate, the the son of Laotian immigrants dreamed of joining the Navy. “I didn’t even know Johnny was a Navy SEAL,” his mother Sengchanh Douangdara said. “I know that he loved his job, it was a job he chose.”
It was Tommy Ratzlaff’s childhood dream to be in the military, his relatives told Arkansas TV station KY3. The 34-year-old joined the Navy in 1995, starting SEAL training the next year. He leaves behind two sons, ages 6 and 11, and his wife, who is pregnant with a baby girl due in November. Ratzlaff’s sister told the TV station, “Tommy would want the focus of his sacrifice to be on the cause, not on the sacrifice itself.”
Dan Zerbe, 28, is from Red Lion, Penn., where he graduated in 2001 from Red Lion High School. He played football, wrestled and was on the weightlifting team. His friend Mike Vogel told ABC7’s sister station WHTM-TV in Harrisburg that the Air Force Staff Sergeant was an “absolute hero.” “Definitely one of the bravest guys,” Vogel said, “He was so proud he was serving his country.”
Matt Mason, 37, was member of Seal Team Six from Kearney, Mo., KMBC-TV reports. He was a married father of two, with a third child on the way. “Badly wounded in the infamous Battle of Fallujah, Mason had worked his way back into the sort of elite shape required by the elite military unit,” The Omaha World-Herald reports. The Kearney Courier newspaper adds Mason graduated from his local high school in 1992 and from Northwest Missouri State University in 1998.
Kraig Vickers, 36, was a Navy Bomb Disposal Specialist and had served for 15 years. He leaves behind his pregnant wife Nani and their three children in Norfolk, Va., according to the AP. Those who knew him say he was a fearless, intelligent, and easygoing family man. Talking to ABC Affiliate KITV in Maui, Vickers father Robert said, “For him it was God first, his country and his family.”