Remembering the fallen: Troops are identified in helicopter crash in eastern Afghanistan

August 9, 2011

(Anja Niedringhaus/Associated Press)

One had a 2-year-old son and a 2-month-old daughter. Another had been a star linebacker on his high school football team. Another had planned to pursue a career in medicine but enlisted in the military after being captivated by the idea of going on special operations.

The Pentagon has not publicly identified the 30 American troops who were killed over the weekend when their helicopter went down in eastern Afghanistan. But in cases in which the families have been notified, relatives and friends have begun to talk about the fallen in interviews with local media outlets and others.

In describing their loved ones, they paint a portrait of a diverse group of service members committed to their jobs and to their country.

Below are links to stories about some of them. Ranks will be added pending identification by the Pentagon.

The full list of casualties will be posted when it is available.

Kraig Vickers was an explosive-ordnance-disposal specialist in the Navy who grew up in Hawaii. (Maui News)

Stephen M. Mills, of Arlington, Tex., served as a Navy SEAL for 14 years. (Dallas-Fort Worth Fox affiliate)

John W. Brown was an Air Force paramedic who had gone to college in Arkansas on a swimming scholarship. (Associated Press)

Kevin Houston was a Navy SEAL who lived in Chesapeake, Va., with his wife, two sons and one daughter. (Cape Cod Times)

Robert J. Reeves, a Navy SEAL, grew up in Shreveport, La., and had been deployed to war zones more than a dozen times. (New York Times)

Jonas Kelsall, who also grew up in Shreveport, joined the SEALs and had been promoted to the rank of lieutenant commander. (New York Times)

Spencer C. Duncan, an Army soldier from Kansas, was a helicopter door gunner who had been in Afghanistan only a few months. (Associated Press)

Michael Strange was a cryptologist for a Naval Special Warfare unit who grew up in Philadelphia but had recently moved to Virginia and had become engaged. (Philadelphia’s ABC affiliate)

Aaron Vaughn, a Navy SEAL, got married three years ago and lived with his family in Virginia Beach. (CNN)

Tommy Ratzlaff, another Navy SEAL, of Green Forest, Ark., leaves behind a wife and two sons. He and his wife were expecting a daughter this fall. (KY3.com)

Patrick Hamburger, an Army soldier who grew up in Nebraska, arrived in Afghanistan only last week for his first tour of duty there. (CNN)

Matt Mason, a Navy SEAL who grew up in Missouri, had been injured while serving in Iraq. (NBC Action News)

Jon Tumilson, a native of Rockford, Iowa, served in the SEALs and would have had 20 years in the Navy in three years. (Des Moines Register)

Jason Workman, a SEAL who grew up in Utah, had served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Brazil and Pennsylvania. (San Juan Record)

Brian Bill, a SEAL from Stamford, Ct., was a triathlete who had once aspired to become an astronaut. (Hartford Courant)

Nick Spehar, of Chisago City, Minn., joined the SEALs and is remembered as a “quiet leader.” (Star Tribune)

Chris Campbell, of North Carolina, enlisted in the Navy in 1996 and leaves behind a wife and 14-year-old daughter. (ENC Today)

John Douangdara, who had grown up in South Sioux City, Neb., was a lead dog handler for a Naval Special Warfare unit. (Sioux City Journal)

Bryan Nicols, of Kansas City, Mo., was a U.S. Army pilot who was about to return home to his family on a two-week leave. (CNN)

Alexander Bennett grew up in Tacoma, Wash., before joining the Army and had served in Iraq. (KOMO News)

Daniel Zerbe, from Pennsylvania, was a pararescue jumper in the Air Force. (The Patriot-News)

David Carter, a Colorado National Guardsman from Aurora, was a pilot. (Denver Post)

Lou Langlais was a Navy SEAL who lived in Virginia Beach and worshipped at the same church as Kevin Houston, another of the SEAL killed in the crash. (Associated Press)

Darrik Benson, a Navy SEAL who grew up in Napa County, Calif., had deployed several times to Afghanistan. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Jesse Pittman, a Navy SEAL, was a former firefighter from California. (The Press Democrat)

Heath Robinson, a Navy SEAL, grew up in Petoskey, Mich. (Detroit Free Press)

Jared Day, 28, was a tactical communicator for a Naval Special Warfare unit. He joined the Navy in 2002 and was deployed numerous times to Africa, Asia and the Middle East. He was originally from Salt Lake City, Utah. (Courtesy of a news release from Day’s family)

An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Jon Tumilson was a native of Rockford, Ill. He was a native of Rockford, Iowa. Local news reports initially indicated Douangdara and Strange were SEALs; they were attached to a Naval Special Warfare unit.

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