U.S. 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 Crash
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.
Note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Master at Arms Petty Officer 1st Class John Douangdara was not a Navy SEAL, but a member of the Naval Special Warfare personnel, who support the SEALs.
SOUTH SIOUX CITY — The family of a U.S. Navy SEAL serving in Afghanistan confirmed the death of their son and brother on Saturday in a helicopter crash in Wardak province.
Sengchanh Douangdara, the mother of Master at Arms, Class 1 John Douangdara, said military officials approached her home at 10 a.m. Saturday to deliver the news of her son's death. Douangdara, 26, was a dog handler for the elite military unit.
The 2003 South Sioux City High School graduate was aboard a Chinook helicopter with 37 others when the aircraft was shot down during an anti-Taliban operation in the Tangi Valley.
Thirty U.S. troops were killed, including nearly two dozen members of the U.S. Navy SEALs. Seven Afghan soldiers and an Afghan interpreter also were killed in the deadliest incident for U.S. forces since the start of the decadelong war.
“I know that he loved his job, it was a job he chose,” his mother said.
The family's sadness was tempered with pride that their brother and son had served his country, a country that welcomed these Laotian immigrants 31 years ago.
“We are proud Johnny fought for the country that embraced our family and gave us the opportunity to reach for the American dream,” said Chan Follen, the oldest of five children in the family.
Sengchanh and Phouthasith Douangdara fled Communist forces in their native Laos in 1979. After the birth of their first child, daughter Chan, they immigrated to the U.S., part of a large contingent of refugees at the time who escaped Laos.
Johnny was born four years later, the third of five children the couple would raise in South Sioux City.
“He was the middle child, very quiet,” sister Chan said. “He loved school activities.”
Johnny was small in stature, growing to only 5 feet, 7 inches. He participated in wrestling in junior high, but not in high school. Mock trial became his favorite activity at South Sioux City High School.
“I hate to say this, but he was a geek,” older brother Pan Douangdara said. “He loved computers.”
He grew to love the military as well, building upon a relationship with a recruiter who began communicating with him in high school. Johnny earned the credits needed to graduate during the fall semester of his senior year at South Sioux City High. He graduated and headed to Basic Training.
“Us older siblings offered to help him pay for college, but he said the military is what he wanted to do,” Chan Follen said.
Even on the drive to Basic Training, Johnny told his older brother that someday he'd be working on a nuclear submarine.
Evidently, his passion for dogs interrupted that career track. When John Douangdara died on Saturday, he reportedly was handling a dog he had trained for work with the Navy SEALs in Afghanistan.
His family didn't know the specifics of his work or that his efforts supported the elite SEALs. When he spoke, he didn't share information about his work or the missions he completed in five overseas tours.
He was last at home in June to attend the wedding of sister Chan, who exchanged vows at Bev's on the River, the last wedding before floodwaters struck Sioux City. He spent the week eating barbecue, swimming and partying with family members.
“It was a celebration, both for my wedding and for Johnny being back home,” Chan said.
The last time he'd had such an extended stay with family occurred in 2009, when the family traveled back to Laos. Johnny paid for his trip and his mother's. The trip gave him a chance to spend time with his grandfather, Bo Khomvouttavong, who served as a captain in the Royal Laos Army more than three decades ago.
Upon learning of his death, the family erected a memorial in their living room on East 15th Street in South Sioux City. The modest split level home now features a candle that has burned since Saturday morning. The candle is surrounded by fresh flowers, fresh fruit, pictures of Johnny and food that is changed three times per day. The memorial follows Buddhist religious traditions involving the recently deceased.
Monday morning's fare was an Egg McMuffin from McDonald's.
The candle will remain lit until John Douangdara's remains are laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. Chan Follen said the funeral will take place sometime within the next two weeks.
A U.S. flag moved in the breeze Monday as family members shared their memories. None shed a tear during an hourlong interview.
“I don't think my brother would call himself a hero,” Chan Follen said. “He was doing his job, doing what he believed in. But in our hearts, he'll always be our hero.”
A Lao immigrant family in the United States says one of their members was among the 30 U.S. troops who died last week in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
Sengchanh Douangdara has told reporters in Sioux City, Iowa, she was notified of her son's death by military officials on Saturday.
The son, John Douangdara, 26, was a master at arms in the elite Navy SEALs, where he worked as a dog handler. The mother said she had not known John was part of the Seal unit but that he loved his work and died doing the job he chose.
Sengchanh Douangdara said she immigrated from Laos 31 years ago and has four more children living in the United States. Her oldest child, Chan Follen, said the family is proud John died fighting for the country that embraced the family and gave them the opportunity to pursue the American dream
MA1 US NAVY
- DATE OF BIRTH: 12/29/1984
- DATE OF DEATH: 08/06/2011
- BURIED AT: SECTION 60 SITE 9926
- ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard