Daniel Lee Zerbe
Technical Sergeant, United States Air Force
Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 705-11
DOD Identifies Service Members Killed In CH-47
The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of 30 servicemembers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died August 6, 2011 in Wardak province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when their CH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed.
The following sailors assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit were killed:
Lieutenant Commander (SEAL) Jonas B. Kelsall, 32, of Shreveport, Louisiana
Special Warfare Operator Master Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Louis J. Langlais, 44, of Santa Barbara, California
Special Warfare Operator Senior Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Thomas A. Ratzlaff, 34, of Green Forest, Arkansas
Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Senior Chief Petty Officer (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist) Kraig M. Vickers 36, of Kokomo, Hawaii,
Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Brian R. Bill, 31, of Stamford, Connecticut
Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) John W. Faas, 31, of Minneapolis, Minnesota
Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Kevin A. Houston, 35, of West Hyannisport, Massachusetts
Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Matthew D. Mason, 37, of Kansas City, Missouri
Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Stephen M. Mills, 35, of Fort Worth, Texas,
Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Chief Petty Officer (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist/Diver) Nicholas H. Null, 30, of Washington, West Virginia
Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Robert J. Reeves, 32, of Shreveport, Louisiana
Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Heath M. Robinson, 34, of Detroit, Michigan
Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Darrik C. Benson, 28, of Angwin, California
Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL/Parachutist) Christopher G. Campbell, 36, of Jacksonville, North Carolina
Information Systems Technician Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist) Jared W. Day, 28, of Taylorsville, Utah,
Master-at-Arms Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist) John Douangdara, 26, of South Sioux City, Nebraska
Cryptologist Technician (Collection) Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist) Michael J. Strange, 25, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL/Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist) Jon T. Tumilson, 35, of Rockford, Iowa,
Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Aaron C. Vaughn, 30, of Stuart, Florida, and
Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Jason R. Workman, 32, of Blanding, Utah.
The following sailors assigned to a West Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit were killed:
Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Jesse D. Pittman, 27, of Ukiah, California, and
Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 2nd Class (SEAL) Nicholas P. Spehar, 24, of Saint Paul, Minnesota
The soldiers killed were:
Chief Warrant Officer David R. Carter, 47, of Centennial, Colo. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), Aurora, Colorado
Chief Warrant Officer Bryan J. Nichols, 31, of Hays, Kan. He was assigned to the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), New Century, Kansas
Staff Sgt. Patrick D. Hamburger, 30, of Lincoln, Neb. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), Grand Island, Nebraska
Sgt. Alexander J. Bennett, 24, of Tacoma, Wash. He was assigned to the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), New Century, Kansas; and
Spc. Spencer C. Duncan, 21, of Olathe, Kan. He was assigned to the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), New Century, Kansas
The airmen killed were:
Tech. Sgt. John W. Brown, 33, of Tallahassee, Florida
Staff Sgt. Andrew W. Harvell, 26, of Long Beach, California; and
Tech. Sgt. Daniel L. Zerbe, 28, of York, Pennsylvania
All three airmen were assigned to the 24th Special Tactics Squadron, Pope Field, North Carolina
For more information about the sailors, media may contact Lieutenant Arlo Abrahamson at 757-763-2007 or 757-620-3109.
For more information on Carter, media may contact the Colorado National Guard public affairs office at 720-250-1053.
For more information on Nichols, Bennett and Duncan, media may contact the 11th Aviation Command public affairs office at 502-626-5746 or 502-851-3466.
For more information on Hamburger, media may contact the Nebraska National Guard public affairs office at 402-309-7302 or 402-309-7303.
For more information about the airmen, media may contact the Air Force Special Operations Command public affairs office at 850-884-5515.
UPDATE: August 12, 2011 -- Sergeant Hamburger was posthumously promoted
to Staff Sergeant.
Airman Daniel Zerbe’s job was to keep other military families from getting that dreadful knock at the front door.
He was a pararescue jumper in the Air Force, a special-ops position that requires rigorous training and is reserved for an elite few.
In plain terms: He saved the lives of soldiers.
And that’s what he was doing Friday night in Afghanistan along with 30 other troops, most of them Navy SEALs. They were protecting Army Rangers on the ground in a firefight with insurgents, and as they were trying to land, a rocket-propelled grenade brought down their Chinook twin-rotor helicopter.
Saturday morning in Red Lion, where Zerbe grew up loving football and dreaming of a military career, his family got a knock on the front door.
Their 28-year-old son and everyone else aboard that chopper died in the crash, including another Pennsylvanian, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Strange, a SEAL from Philadelphia.
It was deadliest single loss for U.S. forces in the decade-long war.
As the 10th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks approaches, it’s the midstate’s third recent painful reminder of the toll of combat.
No funeral arrangements have been announced for Zerbe.
Friends and family gathered at his family home on Christensen Road, just east of York, where there is a “Support Our Troops” sign planted in the yard and an American flag flying.
Neighbors and friends said the family had requested that no one speak publicly about what happened.
Zerbe was a senior at Red Lion Area High School in the Spring of 2001 when he decided to join the military. The attacks of September 11 hadn’t happened when he set a goal of joining the Air Force.
His football coach, George Shue, remembers Zerbe creating a workout plan of swimming and lifting weights after practice to get ready.
For the next decade, his life was military.
Pararescue jumpers are the last resort — called in the worst situations to perform rescues. Commonly known as “PJs,” they are well-known for recovering NASA astronauts from water splashdowns. But they also are members of the only military unit trained specifically in the recovery and medical treatment of soldiers in battle.
About three years ago, Shue saw Zerbe while he was visiting home. He couldn’t talk much about his missions or even say where he was going. But he wasn’t shy about his task: saving lives.
“He was proud of what he was doing,” Shue said. “I know he was doing what he wanted to be doing. I hope something we taught him about being a team player carried on to his life’s mission.”
Zerbe was an active kid. He was on student council, prom court. He wrestled, too.
And Shue wasn’t surprised to hear that Zerbe — nicknamed Zerb by other kids — had succeeded in his dream.
When Zerbe joined the football team as a sophomore, he wasn’t the biggest, strongest or fastest.
“But what he did with his offseason workout and work ethics helped him overcome that,” Shue said.
And football was a family affair for the Zerbes. His older brother played, his sister was a cheerleader and his parents were active booster club members.
That close sense of family carried onto the field, Shue said, and then into his career.
“Ironically, I used to say that if I have to go to battle, the guy I want beside of me is a member of this football team,” Shue said. “That is the kind of individual that he was.”
25 August 2011:
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va. (AFNS) -- An Air Force Special Operations Command pararescueman was laid to rest here August 23.
Technical Sergeant Daniel Zerbe, 28, died Aug. 6 in the Wardak province of eastern Afghanistan when the Chinook helicopter in which he was traveling crashed.
Zerbe was one of 25 U.S. Special Operations Command operators who died in the crash, which also took the lives of five U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers, seven Afghan commandos and one civilian interpreter.
As friends, family and military teammates gathered at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Memorial Chapel to say goodbye, Patriot Guard Riders came through the main gates escorting Zerbe's body. Dismounting from their motorcycles, the guard stood tall in front of the chapel, each holding an American flag in silent tribute to Zerbe.
"We wouldn't be anywhere else," said Tim Young, the assistant state captain east of the Pennsylvania Patriot Guard Riders and a Vietnam veteran who traveled from York, Pennsylvania, to attend the funeral.
Remembered by friends and family as a selfless hero, Zerbe's need to help others and serve his country came at a young age. At the memorial service for Zerbe Aug. 17 at Red Lions High School in York, his high school friend Brandon Dietz remembered him as a person who went out of his way to help others. Near the end of his high school years, Zerbe knew he wanted to join the Air Force and serve his country. Friends said he could often be found lifting weights and preparing for the service.
Zerbe enlisted in the Air Force after high school and soon became a pararescueman assigned to AFSOC. He was trained as a personnel recovery specialist with emergency medical capabilities in humanitarian and combat environments. He was among the most highly-trained emergency trauma specialists in the U.S. military and able to perform life-saving missions in the world's most remote areas.
As taking care of others was an evident theme in Zerbe's life, the pararescueman motto "That others may live" fit his life well.
"He was the most thoughtful, smart, daring person I could ever aspire to be," said Trevor Nordin, Zerbe's roommate and long-time friend. "The brightness (he) gave us will not be put out."
People who attended the funeral said Zerbe will be remembered for his laughter and his ability to love. He was known as Uncle Dan to his teammates' children and brought a smile to everyone's face around him.
The family's pastor said Dan will be remembered as their colleague, son, brother and friend who left in service to his country fulfilling his dream.
"It's not easy to put the pieces back together again," said Rev. Rick Stuempfle. "The more we love someone, the more ties we have, the more difficult it is to make sense out of it. It just hurts too much."
Zerbe is survived by his parents, Terry and Sue, and siblings Chris and Megan. Megan said she truly looked up to her big brother and will miss him.
"There's no doubt that Dan loved his job, and that's exactly what Dan was called to do," Megan said.
Throughout his service, Zerbe's was recognized by the Air Force with decorations such as the Bronze Star Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Purple Heart, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal with seven oak leaf clusters, Aerial Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal and Air Force Combat Action Medal. In addition, he was selected as the Air Force Pararescueman NCO of the Year for 2010.
After the funeral, Zerbe's casket was placed onto the caisson drawn by six black horses. The 3rd Infantry Regiment, or "The Old Guard," along with the Air Force Band, Air Force Honor Guard and military escorts led the procession of family and friends through Arlington cemetery for the interment.
Zerbe was honored with an AC-130 gunship flyover, a rifle volley and the playing of "Taps." The Air Force Honor Guard folded the American flag and handed it to Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel, the AFSOC commander, who presented it to Zerbe's parents in one final tribute to their son's ultimate sacrifice to his country.
Posted: 31 October 2011 Updated 3 February 2012
Photos By Eileen Horan, November 2011
Photos By Eileen Horan, October 2011