3 D.C. area agents, 7 others die in helicopter crash in Afghanistan
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Forrest N. Leamon had just celebrated his one-year wedding anniversary this month, and the special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration was due home from Afghanistan in January, just in time for the birth of his first child.
But Leamon, 37, of Woodbridge, was killed in a helicopter crash Monday in Afghanistan along with two other agents with ties to the D.C. area who were working with the U.S. military to fight drug trafficking in the region.
Also killed in the crash were agents Chad L. Michael, 30, of Quantico, and Michael E. Weston, 37, of the District, and seven U.S. troops. Another helicopter crash Monday claimed the lives of four U.S. service members, making Monday one of the deadliest for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since military operations began nearly eight years ago.
U.S. officials said no enemy attack was involved in either crash, but a Taliban spokesman claimed that insurgents had shot down a helicopter in the western province of Badghis, an assertion that could not be verified.
Michael was a go-getter who wanted to serve his country, said Kim Parnofiello-Windell, an old friend. He started out working for a sheriff's department in South Florida and worked his way up to the SWAT team and narcotics. But he still wanted more, she said.
"He was young and ambitious," she said. And while he enjoyed local law enforcement, "I don't think that was enough," she said. "He wanted something bigger."
So he applied to the DEA and finally got his wish to serve overseas.
"He pursued exactly what he wanted to do, and that was to make a difference," she said.
Leamon felt the same way. He grew up in Northern California, and served in the Navy before joining the DEA. He was tall and fit, an avid outdoorsman who loved to fish and rock climb, said his sister, Heather Leamon.
His family was concerned when he shipped out to Afghanistan, especially because he was married with a child on the way. He didn't say there was no danger. But he felt ready and well-trained and said he'd be taken care of.
"He was really looking forward to that new chapter in his life," Heather Leamon said.
In a statement, DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart said the agency was saddened by the deaths.
"No expressions of grief can adequately convey the depth of the collective sorrow that we feel for their loved ones," she said.
Staff writers Pamela Constable and Joshua Partlow and researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.