Martin C. Evans

Tragedy Ripples Through Tight-Knit Navy Seals

In Uncategorized on August 8, 2011 at 10:32 am

The deadly crash in Afhghanistan involved a CH 47 helicopter like this one. (US Army photo)

Six years ago, the family of Lt. Michael P. Murphy waited inside their Patchogue, N.Y. home as a Naval officer waiting with them took a cell phone call, then offered them his condolences. Their missing Navy Seal son had been killed in what was then the deadliest incident of the war in Afghanistan.

Over the weekend, uniformed personnel began approaching the loved ones of 30 U.S. troops from across America – including 22 Navy Seals – telling them this time tragedy had come to their doorstep.

“This is bad,” Murphy’s father, Dan Murphy, said Monday. “Twenty-two families will have to go through what we had to go through then.”

The Saturday morning crash of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during a mission in Afghanistan with 30 Americans and 8 Afghanis aboard replaced the 2005 incident in which Murphy was killed as the largest loss of life for U.S. forces since the war began in 2001.

By 2 p.m. Monday, the Pentagon had not released the names of the Americans killed in the crash, as is customary pending notification of next of kin. But as individual families across the nation began to learn of the loss of loved ones over the weekend, the shared news convulsed community after American community.

The deadly incident bore uneasy similarities to the 2005 confrontation in which Murphy and two fellow Seals were killed while pursuing a Taliban operative. During that mountainside battle near the Pakistan border, a helicopter carrying a rescue force of 16 U.S. commandos – including eight more Navy Seals and eight Army Night Stalkers – was shot down, killing all aboard.

This time, the troops who were killed had been responding by helicopter to a call for help from a Coalition force being fired upon in Wardak Province west of Kabul. The Coalition force had been pursuing a Taliban leader in the Tangi Valley. The helicopter crash occurred after it was fired upon, according to a NATO release.

The tragedy ricocheted through the nation’s tight-knit brotherhood of Navy Seals, a small group of elite fighters numbering little more than 2,000. Navy Seals have taken on some of the most challenging ground missions in modern warfare, including the May 2 killing of Osama Bin Laden at his Pakistan hideout.

Jim Quattromani, a former Navy Seal who trained with Murphy and who knew some of the men who were killed in the crash, said it was difficult for him to speak about the incident.

“It’s an overwhelmingly hard time for us,” said Quattromani, now a law clerk for a federal District Court judge in Chicag. “We miss these guys immeasurably.”

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