Sometimes, Gaela and the race committee brainstorm about how to
get more racers, sponsors, or donations... They post a picture
of the trophy. They find super shirts. They have great party
planning taking place.... If you attend, you will have a blast.
Lots of silly, lots of festive- a strengthening of our wills as
we run and our community as we laugh....but how to increase our
team?...How to draw more in?....
Then it dawned on me... At 2:00am. You must come to the race
if you are in town, you should walk or run if you can. You
could donate and sponsor the race if you are able.
We should come together on Thanksgiving morning, as they did
over 400 years ago and take a look at the view of the waters and
coastline the first Europeans saw. You should see the bay, that
Captain John Smith once boasted had clams that would feed a
family of 5. You should run along the streets over the sands of
the Powhatan tribes... the Pamunkey, the Mataponi, the tribes of
Pocahantas... Peace could be enjoyed for them, harvest could be
reaped, and thanks could be given because boundaries, rights,
and freedoms had been defended.
Today, we are more free and aware of the world’s threats because
of the Navy SEALS who defended our home, chased down our
enemies, and secured our nation. The fallen soldiers gave their
lives for this to happen. Their children gave their dads for
this to happen. Mothers, fathers gave sons. Wives lost loves.
Siblings lost a piece to their childhood puzzle. For America.
Let us give thanks and be merry for they deserve our thanks,
support, and celebration of great lives.... I share some of
their public stories down below that I gathered from different
news feeds...Can you help? Honor them by adding some attaboys,
some personal stories... Let them feel honored by us all,
especially those who really knew them....
And I went on to think....
Those of us lucky enough to call Virginia Beach home again
trudged with heavy hearts this past August, feeling the
firsthand pain of loss in Afghanistan of 22 members of SEAL Team
Six, the elite special forces unit based in our seaside town.
At the same time, some vacationers who came for the touristy
high-rise beachfront hotels, amusements, shops, and restaurants
hadn't heard right away of the helicopter crash that killed 30
In death as in everyday duty, the SEALs and their families are
insular, with their own intimate support system that few
outsiders can grasp.
"They're family. Any one of them would give their life for any
other one of them at any given time. It's a close-knit family,"
said Sam Midgett, 56, a boat repairman and lifelong Virginia
Beach resident who has counted many Navy SEALs as close friends.
In our tight knit navy town of Virginia Beach, Va. the loss is
felt by everyone."It's high risk, but you know it's the call of
duty for your country," said Joseph Villasenor, a former army
It is a far cry from the jubilation that swept the community
after Bin Laden was killed by our hometown heroes. Even here,
the identities of the Seal Teams are kept secret until their
names become public under the worst of circumstances such as
August’s Chinook crash.
Robert James Reeves and Jonas Kelsall had been childhood friends
in Shreveport, La. Both joined the military after graduation,
though the 32-year-old Reeves spent a year at Louisiana State
University first, his father, Jim Reeves, told the newspaper.
Reeves became a SEAL in 1999 and served on SEAL Team 6, his
father said. During his many deployments, he earned four Bronze
Stars and other honors.
Kelsall, 33, was one of the first members of SEAL Team 7, his
He trained in San Diego and met his wife of three years,
Victoria, when he was attending the University of Texas out of
Basic Underwater Demolition training, his father said
A severe arm injury during fighting in Fallujah in 2004 didn't
keep Matthew Mason off the Iraq War battlefield. Nor did it dull
the competitive fire of the avid runner and former high school
athlete from outside Kansas City.Within five months of losing
part of his left arm, absorbing shrapnel and suffering a
collapsed lung, Mason competed in a triathlon. He soon returned
to his SEAL unit.
Jason Workman had his sights set on becoming a SEAL as a young
teenager. He was about 14 when his older brother graduated from
West Point. That's when he knew he wanted to be an elite soldier,
friend Tate Bennett told The Deseret News. Then came the Sept. 11
terror attacks, and Workman's calling grew even stronger.
"He didn't become a Navy SEAL by chance," Bennett said. "He knew
that's what he wanted at a young age and made it happen."
After returning from his Mormon mission, Bennett said, Workman
went to Southern Utah University and later joined the Navy.
Jon Tumilson got an early start on his preparation to join the
SEALS. He had been a wrestler in high school and competed in
marathons and triathlons.
Neighbors remembered the Rockford, Iowa, man as a warrior
committed to the SEALs, no matter the pain he endured in training
or the risks he ran on each mission.
"When he did something, he put his all into it," Jan Stowe, a
neighbor of the Tumilsons for more than 30 years, told the Des
Tumilson, who was 35 when he died, "was going to be a Navy SEAL
since I can't remember when," Stowe said. "He's like a hero to
Brian Bill had plans for when he finished his military service.
He wanted to return to graduate school and hoped one day to
become an astronaut.
For those who knew him, such lofty goals were not out of reach.
"He set his standards high. He was that kind of person," Kimberly
Hess, a friend who graduated with him in 2001 from Vermont's
Norwich University, told The Advocate newspaper. "He was
remarkably gifted and very thoughtful. There wasn't anything he
wouldn't do for you no matter the time or day."
Diane Warzoha, who had Bill as a student at Trinity Catholic High
School in Stamford, said it was no surprise that he fulfilled his
goal of joining the SEALs.
"Brian just wanted to do his best, to protect other people ...
Challenge did not deter him, ever."
If someone was sad, Michael Strange tried to make them smile. He
loved snowboarding, surfing, scuba diving, running, and shooting
guns on the range.
"He loved his friends, his family, his country; he loved making
people laugh. He was one of a kind," Strange's brother, Charles
Strange III, said outside the family's Philadelphia home, where
American flags were planted throughout the neighborhood.
Strange, 25, decided to join the military when he was still in
high school, and had been in the Navy for about six years, first
stationed in Hawaii and for the last two in Virginia Beach, where
he became a SEAL about two years ago, his mother, Elizabeth
Strange, told The Associated Press.
But he always told his family not to worry.
"He wasn't supposed to die this young. He was supposed to be
safe," Elizabeth Strange said. "And he told me that, and I
believed him. I shouldn't have believed him because I know
better. He would say, 'Mom, don't be ridiculous and worry so
much. I'm safe.'"
Charles Strange said his brother loved the SEALS, especially "the
competitiveness, getting in shape and running and swimming and
all of that."
He also had two sisters and recently became an uncle. The family
last saw him in June, when he came for a weeklong visit for his
birthday, his mother said. He was supposed to be back for
"It was going to be such a good time," his mother said.
Aaron Carson Vaughn
"Aaron was a Christian and he's with Jesus today," Geneva Vaughn
of Union City, Tenn., told The Associated Press on Saturday. "He
told us when we saw him last November that he wasn't afraid ...
he said, 'Granny, don't worry about me.'"
"He was a tough warrior, but he was a gentle man."
Geneva Vaughn said her grandson, 30, joined the SEALS straight
out of boot camp and was already a decorated fighter when he was
asked by the Navy to return stateside to become an instructor.
But he applied to SEAL Team 6 after two years, earning his way
onto the squad in 2010.
He asked the military to return him to combat and shipped out
just six weeks before he was killed, Vaughn said.
"He was doing what he loved to do and he was a true warrior,"
Geneva Vaughn said.
Aaron Vaughn leaves behind his wife, Kimberly, and two children,
2-year-old son Reagan and 2-month-old daughter Chamberlyn.
Adam Lee Vaughn
A Navy Seal from Virginia Beach died April, 2010 of injuries
sustained in combat.
Chief Petty Officer Adam Lee Brown, 36, a decorated combat
veteran, was fatally wounded during a battle with heavily armed
militants, according to a statement Friday from Naval Special
Warfare Group 2 at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort
He was a recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
“Adam Brown was a brave American patriot and fantastic Navy
SEAL,” the Navy statement said. “We are deeply saddened by this
tremendous loss of a fellow brother in arms and teammate.”
When he was a Maui High School football player, no one could
match Kraig Vickers' intensity on the field.
But off the field? "You couldn't find a nicer guy," his former
"He played middle linebacker, so he was really smart, the
quarterback of the defense; and when he put on his helmet, no one
could match his intensity and aggressiveness," coach Curtis Lee
told the Maui News.
Vickers, who would have turned 37 on Thursday, graduated from
high school in 1992 and attended Evangel College in Missouri on a
football scholarship. "He decided college wasn't for him," and
returned home, his father, Robert Vickers, said. After stints in
tree trimming and working as a hotel security guard, he became a
certified scuba diver and decided to join the Navy in 1996.
He lived in Virginia Beach, Va., with his wife Nani, who is seven
months' pregnant with their third child. Robert Vickers said she
is making plans to return to Hawaii because she only has a small
window of time before doctors won't allow her to fly.
"He wanted to be buried near the ocean," his father said, adding
that the family is awaiting details on when the body will arrive
Chris Campbell may have been physically slight, but family and
friends said the Navy SEAL was always ready to take on a
His mother, Diane Campbell, told The Daily News of Jacksonville
she remembered him and his older brother learning to ride a
unicycle brought back from Okinawa as one example of her son's
"If Chris thought he could, he would try," Diane Campbell said.
"I remember hearing for the first time when he had joined the
SEALS, I thought that kind of fits Chris. He didn't have a lot of
fear of things and I think he always wanted to try to prove to
somebody that he could do things. He was an adventurous-type
Campbell's work frequently sent him on missions out of the
country, and his family asked few questions when he showed up
with a full beard or arrived for a visit that could only last
three hours. In an email to his daughter Samantha sent days
before the crash, he wrote that he was looking forward to coming
home in November and celebrating her 15th birthday in January.
When 24-year-old Nicholas Spehar said he was going to do
something, you could take him at his word.
The 2005 graduate of Chisago Lakes High School was a "quiet
leader," a star in academics and three sports during his time at
the school along Minnesota's eastern border, said Principal Dave
"Nick was an active young man, and if he said he was going to do
something, he did it," Ertl said. "I could see him as a Navy SEAL
and giving 110 percent to serve his country."
Younger brother Luke Spehar told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis
that the family does not want to talk about Nick, the second of
five children, until after his funeral. "We need time," he said.
Jared William Day
Jared William Day grew up in the Salt Lake City area and joined
the Navy in 2002 "because he loved his country, the people who
live here, and the freedoms we all have," his family said.
The 28-year-old Navy SEAL had participated in multiple missions
in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and was an Information
Systems Technician First Class, a family statement said.
"He was truly special, not only to our family, but to this
country," his family said. "Jared's memory will live in our
His family also described him as being "determined with a fierce
sense of humor."
Day rose to become an elite member of the Naval Special Warfare
Development Group where he served as tactical commander.
Day's family attended a ceremony for the soldiers earlier this
week at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where they were given a
few minutes with President Barack Obama.
Daniel L. Zerbe
Friends of Tech Sgt. Daniel L. Zerbe remembered the 28-year-old
as driven but funny and easy to get along with.
Zerbe, a 2001 graduate of Red Lion Area High School in central
Pennsylvania, did not say much about his Air Force duties, former
schoolmate Jean Martin told The York Dispatch.
"He could make you laugh no matter what," said Martin, who dated
him after high school.
John Smeltzer, a friend of Zerbe's, recalled playing football
together starting in junior high, as well as fishing,
snowboarding and engaging in other outdoor pursuits.
Martin said Zerbe wasn't the biggest player on the football or
wrestling teams, but he worked hard to achieve his goals.
When Smeltzer last spoke with him in June, they talked about life
and the birth of Smeltzer's daughter. He has struggled to come to
terms with his friend's death.
"You wouldn't think this is going to come," he said.
Our town had been through this before. In 2008, Senior Chief
Petty Officer John Marcum, 34, and Petty Officer First Class
Jason Freiwald, 30, died in a battle with heavily armed
militants, the Navy said. The men were deployed from the highly
selective Naval Special Warfare Development Group at Dam Neck
Annex in Virginia Beach.
Capt. Scott Moore, commanding officer of the development group,
said the deaths were “tremendous losses.”“These men were true
warriors, dedicated to their country, their fellow SEALS and the
cause for which they were fighting,” Moore said in a statement.
“They died taking the fight to the enemy, going in harm’s way
with the selflessness that resonated in their character and made
them giants among men.”
Three years prior we lost three SEALS in one incident... Less
than three years after joining the military as a teenager, Danny
Dietz reported for duty at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base as
a Navy SEAL.
It was November 2001; Dietz was 21 and single then. The U.S. had
been fighting in Afghanistan barely a month. July 2005,the
Department of Defense announced that Dietz, a petty officer 2nd
class assigned to SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team Two at Little Creek,
died in Afghanistan’s Kunar province. He is survived by his wife,
Maria, of Virginia Beach; his parents; and two siblings.
“Although I was not ready to let God take him away from me, I
know my husband gave all he could to make his way back to me,”
Maria Paz Leveque Dietz said in a written statement. “He probably
wouldn’t have wanted to die any other way, but only trying to
protect his fellow teammates and his country.”
Five Virginia Beach-based SEALs – Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffery
A. Lucas, Lt. Michael M. McGreevy, Petty Officer 1st Class
Jeffrey S. Taylor, Lt. Cmdr. Erik Kristensen, and Chief Petty
Officer Jacques J. Fontan, all assigned to SEAL Team 10 at Little
Creek –perished in the crash.
Then there was David... blessed was he among women. The son with
four sisters. The protector.
David Tapper distinguished himself as a SEAL operator in combat
in both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, earning two Bronze Stars.
He joined the Navy in 1989 after graduating from high school,
where he was an accomplished athlete and wrestler.
Tapper, who knew from the outset that he wanted to be a SEAL,
graduated from BUD/S in 1991. Tapper first deployed to and fought
in Afghanistan shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist
attacks. He was part of the initial U.S. force that invaded to
strike the al-Qaeda leaders responsible, and topple the
fundamentalist Taliban regime that harbored them.
Tapper also fought in the early, most dangerous stages of the
Iraq war, for two months in 2003. He participated in the April
rescue of wounded POW Jessica Lynch and helped recover the bodies
of nine American soldiers buried near the hospital where she was
After six weeks leave, Tapper redeployed to Afghanistan as part
of a dedicated team in the ongoing fight to rout Taliban and al-
Qaeda insurgents, which have continued to conduct guerilla
operations, particularly along the Pakistan border.
I remember talking a lot to David on the sidelines of Gaela and
Vanessa’s soccer games. He was at ease about going back to
Afghanistan because he had a job to do there, he explained to me
once. I suggested it must have been frustrating to have to leave
before it was finished. He said he was excited to leave also,
because he had a job to do here... and, of course, he did, with
his 4 children and wife.
Tapper lost in life in battle in 2003.A sister said gratefully,
”He grew up protecting his mother and sisters. Then he grew up to
protect his country…David fought a good fight and accomplished
his mission in life.”
His mother in turn spoke of his dedication to his teammates, “I
know how much he loved his job and SEAL brothers. We always
9 years after his passing... Father’s Day. We are deep in our
grief of Charlie and the doorbell rings. It is Vanessa Tapper,
David’s daughter, the gal he would admire from the sidelines
bringing her grieving friend Gaela and her family dinner.... And
I thought, THEY DID IT, DAVID! Quiet, honorable, strong lives...
TRACY’s RAISED GREAT KIDS OF YOURS, DAVID!!
For me, it began with Neil... Neighbor Neil. Neil Roberts.
Heavily pregnant with little Jack, I recall talking to Neil in the
driveway about his pool and if it was hard to maintain. He seemed
to be home with his cute little wife and toddler a lot. I
wondered if he was looking for work...HA! As James and I waited
for his pm kindergarten bus one day, we played Old Maid and
watched the news... It was September 11th and the news did not
end for 14 straight days. I joined the national grief and watched
the horror unfold.
On 7 October 2001- WITHIN DAYS, the United States embarked on
Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan with the deadliest and
most technologically advanced armed force the world had yet seen.
No other conventional opponent could match it in combat. From the
war's opening day, Navy and Air Force bombs rained down on Taliban
and al Qaeda targets with the highest level of accuracy achieved
to that time in military history. The enemy, however, behaved like
ants. When the bombs started falling on the anthills, many enemy
fighters simply scattered, switched sides, or melted away into the
mountains to regroup and fight another day. Although the U.S.
arsenal boasted the most sophisticated technology in the world, it
couldn't help Neil Roberts. In the end, he fought alone on a
frigid snow-covered mountaintop against enemies he could see and
hear yards away.
Roberts was killed in combat during a clandestine insertion, when
the MH-47 Chinook helicopter he was readying to exit made a rushed
take-off from a 10,000 foot mountain after it was hit machine-gun
The Chinook helicopter was about to set down when machine-gun fire
ripped into the fuselage, cutting a hydraulic line. The chopper
jerked and swayed as the pilot struggled to regain control.
Intelligence for Operation Anaconda had indicated that this
particular mountain top landing zone was unoccupied. The ambush
opened the curtain on the bloodiest fight in the Afghan war, a
battle that unfolded in the frigid mountain region of Gardez,
Afghanistan, in the dead of the winter. The pilot managed to gain
a little altitude, and then veeredoff. Petty Officer First Class
Neil Roberts was standing in the rear by the open exit ramp when
the first rounds struck. With the severed line spraying hydraulic
fluid everywhere and the chopper jerking this way and that,
Roberts lost his balance and fell to the snowy ground below.
Roberts collected himself, activated his emergency beacon, and
then took stock. His only weapons were a pistol and two hand
grenades. Unfortunately his light machine gun had not fallen out
of the chopper, too. Three al-Qaeda fighters began moving in.
Roberts crawled toward better cover, engaging the terrorists with
the pistol and grenades. He soon ran out of ammunition.
ven in the 21st century, war pits man against nature and man
"Although I sacrificed personal freedom and many other things, I
got just as much as I gave," he wrote his wife in an "open in the
event of my death" letter. My time in the Teams was special," Neil
Roberts, 32, wrote. "For all the times I was cold, wet, tired,
sore, scared, hungry and angry, I had a blast."
I got to know Patty better when he was gone. I remember the
surviving SEALS wives coming to inform me. I had seen the
chaplain’s car and wasn’t surprised. The grief of these women,
though, the SEAL sisters to Patty was immeasurable. I knew this
group, this secret SEAL organization of which I knew little, was
special, the members very, very close and today deeply hurt.
To his last action, Petty Officer Roberts was true to his SEAL
ethos and to the unconditional commitment he made to the Navy when
he enlisted. His moment of truth came when he was utterly alone,
surrounded by a ruthless enemy deep in hostile territory and
undoubtedly knew there was no chance of escape or rescue. Never
forget that it is Sailors like Petty Officer Roberts and his
shipmates currently engaged in the fight who we are serving.
I remember carrying his son around at his funeral... such a cute
buddy, younger than Lola... I could not understand or participate
in the group grief. 9 Years later, I’m stunned... at a funeral
home again, a young pair of legs around my waist, Lola’s this
time, and Patty and I are hugging but now the tears are mine... “
I had no idea, Patty! This is really so, so bad. And she said
“you couldn’t know it... not without living it.” And then I knew,
I had begun a new life...a living it life... a missing him life.
And yet it’s natural.
Tourists take a step away from reality when they're here. It is
like an imaginary line in the sand between the people on this side
of the Boardwalk and the people out there under their umbrellas
and on their beach towels.
It really couldn't be any other way, said the Rev. Ira Towns, 45,
the executive pastor of Atlantic Shores Baptist Church where two
of the slain SEALs – Kevin Houston and Lou Langlais – worshipped.
He won't discuss SEALs in his congregation in detail, he said, and
neither will others.
"Here, you have a connection with Navy SEALs and you want to
protect them and protect their families and people don't disclose
information about them," Towns said. "This city's not like that.
People aren't going to start putting piles of flowers in front of
their houses like memorials."
They draw their comfort from within the extended SEAL family, he
said. They live together, they sweat out deployments together,
they celebrate victories and homecomings together and they grieve
together, Towns said. And distance is not a factor.
In March 2010, SEAL Team member Adam Brown, a member of Atlantic
Shores Baptist, died. After word of Friday's deaths broke, Brown's
widow swiftly boarded a flight from Little Rock, Ark., and
returned to Virginia Beach to comfort friends suffering a sorrow
she has already endured.
This steely strength exhibited over and over again by these
women...these remarkable children. Some say they might be
stronger than the SEALs themselves for they carry on for him, for
themselves, for the children. They know they can. They know they
will. These women will raise their children without fragility or
fear. They’ll teach them to walk with shoulders back, heads high,
and holding hands with those who can only know their pain... as
they step into the deep footprints the fallen soldiers left for
them to follow....
And all the while, their humanity hurts for their loss, their
hearts long for their loves, and yet their Navy excellence and
spousal devotion allow them to keep walking, moving, celebrating,
and laughing... for this is America. It is why we give thanks
each Autumn. We have survived a long journey... We will have
challenges ahead. But, today, we have each other, our health and
the country these men protected. And we hopefully deeply
understand and appreciate the price they paid... We are also
obligated to help lessen the price their families will pay.
God bless these men, women, and children...mothers, fathers,
sisters, and brothers... You are present in our communities today,
but you will remain part of our country’s story in the records
forever. I pause to consider the families of the American
Revolution, the world wars, the faces of the young men in the
Civil War, and the anxious and tired faces of our very first
I am honored to be an American. I am fortunate to live in Virginia
Beach. I am moved to support these little veterans; from those
teething to tiny toddlers to timid teenagers; these women and
children lost so that we could gain.
Please deeply consider supporting our fundraising efforts for the
families of the fallen. 100% of all proceeds from race donations
and sponsorships will go directly to the Navy SEAL foundation. We
have applied for their approval of our event and efforts and it
has been granted. We wish to make a large contribution together,
as a team. Seal Team Sandbridge.
T shirts can be ordered for those who can not attend or who are not
racing! All profits will go to the Navy Seal foundation.
Donations, t shirt orders, and sponsorships can be paid by check if you email
firstname.lastname@example.org and arrange a meeting or paid directly online by credit
And do NOT miss the costumes– BRING IT SANDBRIDGE!- J And A challenged our
spirit level! I’m still thinking of being a Pilgrim... or a banana....:). Let’s give the kids
something to laugh about...
Ok, now, I’m getting loopy...and a bit warm, so let me peel back some of this
banana costume I’m wearing as a robe and get this posted...