The Lives of Elite U.S. Soldiers Become Public

Families of the men who were killed in the copter crash this weekend speak about their loved ones

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The Department of Defense has yet to release the names of the 30 U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan this weekend in the single deadliest helicopter crash of the Afghanistan war. But as the families of service members are notified of the tragic event, a growing profile of the elite soldiers killed in the crash is becoming public knowledge as the families speak with local media. Of the 30 soldiers killed, 22 were Navy SEALs and most were members of SEAL Team 6, the unit responsible for killing Osama bin Laden in May (though none of the fallen soldiers participated in the Abbottabad raid, according to the military). Up until now, none of the names of members of SEAL Team 6 have been declassified. According to National Journal's Marc Ambinder, when members of the elite unit die, the Defense Department often issues a cover story—"generally, they were killed in training accidents in eastern Afghanistan. That’s the code." But the details of the helicopter crash have become public and the families of the soldiers are speaking out. Here are the broad strokes of some of the men who died this weekend (a number of them Navy SEALs but not members of Team 6). You can follow the links to learn more about each one. The current list is incomplete as reports continue to come in about the tragedy.

Aaron Carson Vaughn A member of SEAL Team 6 from Tennessee. According to North Carolina affiliate Fox 8, "Vaughn's family members say he was a proud father." His grandmother Geneva Green Vaughn said "I'm very proud of him.  He was such a good boy, and he loved his country enough to put his life on the line." He's survived by his wife, a two-year-old son, and a two-month old daughter.

John Brown An Air Force paramedic who went to college in Arkansas on a swimming scholarship, his mother says "John Brown was a Rambo without the attitude, he was a humble healer, and service to his country," according to a Fox affiliate in Phoenix.


Michael Strange Grew up in Philadelphia, Strange, a Navy SEAL, recently moved to Virginia and got engaged. "Michael loved protecting our country. We were very proud of him and he succeeded with the Navy SEALs. He became an E-6 in four years, that's how dedicated he was," said his father according to Philadelphia’s ABC affiliate. "Strange also leaves behind two younger siblings and his mother, a Philadelphia police officer."

Kraig Vickers Grew up in Hawaii, Vickers, a Navy Bomb Disposal Team member, would have turned 37 in August. According to The Maui News, "Vickers lived in Virginia Beach, Va., with his wife, Nani, who was pregnant, and their three children, said his friend from childhood Michael Labuanan, who learned about his death from Vance Vickers, Kraig's brother. He added that the Vickers were expecting to be stationed on Oahu next year." Kraig was descirbed as "funny, mellow and kind."

Robert James Reeves A member of SEAL Team 6 from Shreveport, Louisiana. According to The New York Times he was "a chief petty officer who had turned 32 just days ago, was accepted for Naval Special Warfare training in 1999."

Stephen M. Mills  A member of the Navy SEALs for 14 years, "Those close to Mills confirm he was the leader of a 22-member SEAL Team 6 troop killed in the attack," reports Dallas's Fox affiliate. "Mills leaves behind three children and his wife whom he married earlier this year."

Kevin Houston Also a Navy SEAL, "Houston was hardworking and loved the friendship and camaraderie of sports teams and the service," reports the Cape Cod Times. "He was born to do this job," said his mother. "If he could do it all over again and have a choice to have it happen the way it did, or instead work at McDonald's and live to be 104? No. He'd do it all over again."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.