Identifying the Special Operations Force behind the Usama bin Laden raid amounted to placing a target on the back of the team members as well as their families, according to the parents of Aaron Vaughn, a member of SEAL Team Six who was killed in Afghanistan in 2011.
The Vaughns spoke with Fox News as part of an ongoing report on the war in Afghanistan for an upcoming episode of the "Fox Files." While the Vaughns do not believe their son was part of the bin Laden mission, they said the entire team shared the victory, and eventually the shock, of being named.
“Aaron called me and said, 'Mom, you need to wipe your social media clean of any reference to me or any of my buddies. Just disconnect completely,'” Karen Vaughn said her son warned after Vice President Biden publicly identified the SEALs on May 3, 2011 -- two days after the raid. “He [Aaron] actually said to me, 'Mom, there's chatter, and all of our lives could be in danger, including yours' ... then I realized all of those families, you know, you're talking about a community of around three hundred families who were all of a sudden made targets by this administration.”
With Tuesday marking 11 years since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Vaughns said that the terror strike gave their son the drive to join the elite Navy SEALs, adding that a “passion stirred in his heart.”
But Aaron's father Billy Vaughn said it was a betrayal to identify these selfless young men who put their country before everything else.
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“We expect better out, out of the, the high-up's in our government. We, as American citizens, look to our government. We elect them, we look to them to take care of the best interests of the American citizen, and especially the warrior. And I believe what the administration did, then I believe it was criminal.”
Karen Vaughn stressed that SEAL Team Six members want to stay private.
“I can tell you one thing, SEAL Team Six did not want to be identified,” Karen Vaughn said. “So it wasn't that they were trying to be proud of them, because those men do not need a pat on the back. They don't work for that. They spend their entire lives in this code of secrecy and privacy, and […] they do not want attention.”
She said members of the Navy SEALs may be “the most humble men you will ever meet on this earth, because they accomplish great things,” but that does not mean they seek recognition for their efforts.
Three months after bin Laden was killed, on August 6, 2011, Aaron Vaughn died when his helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan. He was among 17 SEALs killed in the incident. A total of 30 service members lost their lives that day serving their nation.
The Vaughns are now speaking publicly about their son, what it meant to lose him in Afghanistan, and they are sharing their experience with other military families. One day they hope to extend their support of the U.S. Military by setting up a foundation called “Operation Three Hundred.” Their goal is a yearly camp for the kids who have lost a parent, like Aaron’s two children.
Asked whether they could accept that the administration identified the SEALS because they were so grateful, Billy Vaughn flatly rejected the suggestion. “No matter how proud they were of it, it was very unprofessional. The fact, they could have, the administration could have said special operators.”
Fox News asked the White House National Security spokesman and the vice president's office for a response, but none was immediately available.
Pamela K. Browne is Senior Executive Producer at the FOX News Channel (FNC) and is Director of Long-Form Series and Specials. Her journalism has been recognized with several awards. Browne first joined FOX in 1997 to launch the news magazine “Fox Files” and later, “War Stories.”
Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.