Navy SEALs: The personal stories of fallen fighters
- Kimberly and Aaron Vaughn. Photo: Courtesy Vaughn family | Date: Sep. 09, 2007
If Elizabeth Newlun wanted to have a serious conversation with her son, John Brown, she had to shoot baskets with him.
"There's nothing athletic about me, but I realized that you have to get into other people's comfort zone to get information," said Newlun, of Rogers, Ark., explaining that her son, an Air Force technical sergeant, was a "gentle giant" who "just loved anything physical, anything athletic."
Newlun said her son played football and basketball in high school and went to John Brown University on a swimming scholarship. He had wanted to go into the medical field and become a nurse anesthetist, but decided to join the military after seeing a video of a special tactical unit, she said.
The airman was a paramedic and ready to attend to the medical needs of anyone who was rescued, his mother said.
Arkansas state Rep. Jon Woods went to high school with Brown in Siloam Springs and remembered playing basketball and watching "Saturday Night Live" on the weekends.
"When you think of what the ideal model of a soldier would be, he would be it," said Woods. "He could run all day."
Aaron Carson Vaughn was a man of deep faith, insisting to his family that he didn't fear his job as a Navy SEAL "because he knew where he was going" when he died.
"Aaron was a Christian and he's with Jesus today," Geneva Vaughn of Union City, Tenn., told The Associated Press on Saturday. "He told us when we saw him last November that he wasn't afraid ... he said, `Granny, don't worry about me."'
"He was a tough warrior, but he was a gentle man."
Geneva Vaughn said her grandson, 30, joined the SEALS straight out of boot camp and was already a decorated fighter when he was asked by the Navy to return stateside to become an instructor. But he applied to SEAL Team 6 after two years, earning his way onto the squad in 2010.
He asked the military to return him to combat and shipped out just six weeks before he was killed, Vaughn said.
"He was doing what he loved to do and he was a true warrior," Geneva Vaughn said.
Aaron Vaughn leaves behind his wife, Kimberly, and two children, 2-year-old son Reagan and 2-month-old daughter Chamberlyn.
"They will take away his love for Christ. They will take his dream and his love for the country, and they will know what an amazing man he is," Kimberly said about the children in an interview on NBC's "Today" show Monday.
Robert James Reeves and Jonas Kelsall had been childhood friends in Shreveport, La., where they played soccer together and graduated from Caddo Magnet High School, Kelsall's father, John, told The Times of Shreveport and KLSA-TV.
Both joined the military after graduation, though the 32-year-old Reeves spent a year at Louisiana State University first, his father, Jim Reeves, told the newspaper.
Reeves became a SEAL in 1999 and served on SEAL Team 6, his father said. During his many deployments, he earned four Bronze Stars and other honors.
Kelsall, 33, was one of the first members of SEAL Team 7, his father said.
He trained in San Diego and met his wife of three years, Victoria, when he was attending the University of Texas out of Basic Underwater Demolition training, his father said.
Reeves placed several American flags outside his home and his neighbors joined in, many decorating their homes in red, white and blue in support of the families.
When he was a Maui High School football player, no one could match Kraig Vickers' intensity on the field.
But off the field? "You couldn't find a nicer guy," his former coach remembers.
"He played middle linebacker, so he was really smart, the quarterback of the defense; and when he put on his helmet, no one could match his intensity and aggressiveness," coach Curtis Lee told the Maui News.
Vickers, who would have turned 37 on Thursday, graduated from high school in 1992 and attended Evangel College in Missouri on a football scholarship. "He decided college wasn't for him," and returned home, his father, Robert Vickers, said. After stints in tree trimming and working as a hotel security guard, he became a certified scuba diver and decided to join the Navy in 1996.
He lived in Virginia Beach, Va., with his wife Nani, who is seven months' pregnant with their third child. Robert Vickers said she is making plans to return to Hawaii because she only has a small window of time before doctors won't allow her to fly.
"He wanted to be buried near the ocean," his father said, adding that the family is awaiting details on when the body will arrive on Maui.
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