Families, communities grieve for lost Navy SEALs
(AP, ABC7) Across the country, families of those killed in Friday night's helicopter crash in Afghanistan are coming to terms with the news they had always dreaded.
Kimberly Vaughn received that knock on her door.
“I saw the men in uniform and I just fell to my knees,” said Vaughn.
She realized her husband, Aaron Carson Vaughn, a member of the Navy's elite SEAL Team Six, was one of 30 troops killed when his helicopter was gunned down by Taliban forces in Afghanistan.
“There's just no preparing for it. You know, it's something you see in the movies, not something you are supposed to live through,” Vaughn said.
Yellow ribbons drape the mailboxes of the Fairfax County home where Kimberly grew up and her family still lives.
Kimberly and Aaron met in Guam while on a USO tour. Married for three years, they have a 2-year-old son and a 2-month-old. He was stationed in Virginia Beach, Virginia,
"I want to tell the world that he was an amazing man, that he was a wonderful husband, and a fabulous father to two wonderful children," she said. "He was a warrior for Christ and he was a warrior for our country and he wouldn't want to leave this Earth any other way than how he did."
The Fairfax native says she'll focus on making sure her children always know the father who paid the ultimate price.
“I'm just going to celebrate his life and share what a wonderful, amazing father he was to them,” Kimberly said.
The family says they will head to Dover Tuesday morning to be there as Aaron Vaughn’s body returns home to U.S. soil.
In Philadelphia Sunday, an emotional Charles Strange sought to comfort friends and neighbors mourning the death of his brother Michael.
"He loved all you guys and all of his friends. All the kids who were here yesterday," he told them.
Three U.S. Navy SEALs arrived at the family's house Saturday to tell them Petty Officer Michael Strange was among the dead.
"Michael loved protecting our country", Strange says. His son was 25 years old, and due to come home from active duty in November.
"We were very proud of him. And he succeeded with the SEALS. He became an E-6 in four years. Four years." That means Michael Strange moved up six ranks in his short SEAL career.
"That's how dedicated he was," Strange said.
Twenty-two members of Navy SEAL Team Six were killed when their Chinook helicopter went down Friday night.
John McGuire, a SEAL from 1988 to 1998, says this has been a difficult weekend. "Unfortunately, it was the largest loss of life for the Navy SEALs right now."
At the SEALs proving ground in Virginia Beach, Dam Neck Training Center, there is a profound sense of loss.
"It's horrible. It is," says Belinda Arredondo, who works at a restaurant frequented by SEALs and their families. "It's really, other than cry, you really don't know what else to do really. I mean it's sad."
Eight Afghan commandos were also killed in the crash just west of the capital, Kabul.
"It was hit by the Taliban, it was a big helicopter", says an Afghan man, who lives near the impact site.
"After it crashed, it caught fire, a huge fire. We were not able to come out during the night because the Americans were around."
Authorities now say the rescue team had just finished subduing attackers who had a Ranger unit pinned down.
They were flying out when the chopper was hit, likely by a rocket-propelled grenade.
"He knew what he was getting into," says Charles Strange Jr., the fallen SEAL's brother. "It was something. He was trained for it. It was something he wanted."
McGuire says the website nswfoundation.org is providing support for families of SEALs killed in combat.
But he also says all this loss of life is part of the price of a war on terror.
"We go through all the emotions that any American goes through," McGuire says. "But you know you have to deal with it. You have to get the job done."
Donations can be made to
Navy SEAL Foundation at www.nswfoundation.org
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