Ultimate Sacrifice: Remembering the American Heroes Killed in Helicopter Crash

A total of 30 American troops were killed over the weekend when their Chinook helicopter crashed on a mission targeting a Taliban leader in Afghanistan. Their sacrifice is not lost on the Americans whose freedoms these brave troops swore to uphold, and whose safety was at the heart of the mission. The information included here is culled from family members and media reports, as well as the official list of deceased released by the Pentagon.

Crash: Navy Seal Darrik Benson

Navy SEAL Darrik Benson, 29, of Angwin, Calif., served in the Navy for the past 12 years and was thinking of becoming a private pilot after leaving the military. 

"He's a fine boy; we're extremely proud of him. He was one of the top men in his group," his grandfather, Carlyle T. Benson told KTVU News. Darrik Benson is survived by his wife, Kara, and their 3-year-old son.

Crash: Navy Seal Brian Bill

Navy SEAL Brian Bill, 31, grew up in Stamford, Conn., where he played hockey and soccer at Trinity Catholic High School and was an Eagle Scout. His family said he was interested in attending graduate school and becoming an astronaut after completing his military service.

His mother and stepfather, Patricia and Michael Parry, and his father, Scott Bill, in a written statement thanked the SEALs, saying, "We are heartbroken in our loss. Brian was a remarkably gifted, thoughtful and compassionate young man. We are incredibly proud of him. He was a treasured son, grandson, brother, uncle and cousin. He loved life. He loved a challenge. And he was passionate about being a SEAL."

Crash: Master at Arms 1st Class John Douangdara

Master at Arms 1st Class John Douangdara, 26, South Sioux City, Neb., was the lead dog handler for the SEALs. His mom, Sengchanh Douangdara, a Laotian immigrant, says, "I know he loved his job, it was a job he chose.”

Chan Follen, the oldest of five children in the family, told the Chicago Tribune, "We are proud Johnny fought for the country that embraced our family and gave us the opportunity to reach for the American Dream."

Crash: Sgt. Patrick Hamburger

Sgt. Patrick Hamburger, 30, of the Nebraska Army National Guard, was recently deployed in May and, less than two weeks after arriving in Afghanistan, news of the crash reached his family and friends. 

“A [helicopter] was his second love -- besides his family -- so he died doing what he loved," Tess Bayne, a close family friend and military wife told Nebraska TV. 

Chris Hamburger always thought of his brother Patrick as a hero saying, "He was selfless. He didn't worry about him[self] half as much as he worried about everyone else. You could have been a complete stranger and if he could have helped you, he would've done it."

Crash: Navy Seal Matt Mason

Navy SEAL Matt Mason, 37, of Kearney, Mo., is remembered by people in his town as a kid who played linebacker on the football team, first baseman on the baseball team and who could slide into any clique of friends and belong. 

John Ball, his high school football coach, told the Kansas City Star, “I wasn’t surprised at all to hear that he was a Navy SEAL. “On the two-a-days, especially when it was really, really hot, Matt would push himself through them. Any adversity, he’d get through it.”

Classmates remember Mason as the kid who made people laugh recalling a story about how on prom night, at John Knox Village in Lee’s Summit, Mason dedicated a song, “Wild Thing,” to the high school principal and his date – the man’s wife.

Chief Petty Officer Robert Crash: James Reeves and Lt. Commander Jonas Kelsall

Chief Petty Officer Robert James Reeves and Lt. Commander Jonas Kelsall were childhood friends from Shreveport, La., and were teammates on the soccer field. 

They graduated from Caddo Magnet High School, and continued their journey through life together as Navy SEALs. 

"It had never been obvious to me that he was going to choose a military career. It is very difficult to make it on these SEAL teams. But that was where he knew he needed to be,” Reeves’ father, James Reeves, told Fox8News.

Crash: Navy Seal Tommy Ratzlaff

Navy SEAL Tommy Ratzlaff, 34, of Green Forest, Ark., leaves behind a wife, two sons ages 11 and 6, and a baby girl due in November. Relatives told KY3 News that it was always his dream to serve his country. 

Ratzlaff joined the Navy in 1995 out of high school, and a year later he entered SEAL training. Ratzlaff's sister said, "Tommy would want the focus of his sacrifice to be on the cause, not on the sacrifice itself."

Crash: Navy SEAL Kevin Houston

Navy SEAL Kevin Houston, 36, of Hyannis, Mass., was a highly decorated military man, earning a Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars and numerous other military honors during his three tours in Afghanistan. 

“He died doing what he loved and he wouldn’t have done it any other way. He went out to rescue his buddies, and he got shot down,” his mentor and longtime friend Chris Kelly, a Vietnam veteran, told the Boston Herald. 

Houston is survived by his wife and three children.

Crash: Navy SEAL Kraif Vickers

Kraig Vickers, 36, of Hawaii, was a Navy explosive ordnance disposal specialist attached to a Navy SEAL team unit. He is remembered as a standout in football and wrestling at Maui High School.

"He's exactly the type of young man you want representing us in time of war. He was an honorable, polite, fearless, tough guy. I'm honored that he did represent us," Vickers' former wrestling coach, Lindsay Ball, told The Maui News.

Crash: Airman Daniel Zerbe

Airman Daniel Zerbe, 28, of Red Lion, Pa., was a pararescue jumper in the Air Force, a special-ops position reserved for an elite few. 

His family and friends say Zerbe decided to join the military long before the attacks on Sept. 11, 2011. 

“He was proud of what he was doing. I know he was doing what he wanted to be doing. I hope something we taught him about being a team player carried on to his life’s mission,” Zerbe’s high school football coach George Shue told

Crash: Air Force Tech Sgt. John W. Brown

Air Force Tech Sgt. John W. Brown was an Air Force pararescueman based at Pope Field in Fort Bragg, N.C. 

His death was confirmed by his mother, Elizabeth Herndon Newlun of Rogers, Ark., who told the AP that her son loved to do anything active. 

"If I wanted to have a conversation with him that was serious, I would have to shoot baskets with him. There's nothing athletic about me, but I realized that you have to get into other people's comfort zone to get information," Newlun says. 

Newlun says she is so proud of her son. "I want to make sure that everyone knows that he's a hero. I can fall apart later."

army Spencer Duncan

Army Reserve Spc. Spencer Duncan is remembered by friends as a true patriot. 

"He loved his country and we love him and we're so proud of him," a friend, Andrea Miller, told Fox 4 news. 

The 21-year-old loved to play guitar and enjoyed country music. His best friend, Brian Bartell, kept in touch with Duncan through Facebook even from Afghanistan. He says, "No matter what was going on far away from home he was just word for word so proud to be doing what he was doing."

Army Reserve Spc. Alexander Bennett

Army Reserve Spc. Alexander Bennett, 24, of Tacoma, Wash., is remembered by his mother, Kim Robertson, as a proud soldier. 

Kim Robertson tells the Bellingham Herald that her son told her, “It was the best crew out with the best men.” She says he brought laughter everywhere. 

Army buddies agreed, saying he was a jokester who got a thrill out of playing pranks. In one, Bennett hid behind a corner and popped an unsuspecting officer with an air gun. “Yeah, he got in a lot of trouble for that one,” said 1st Sgt. Kirk Kuykendall, 47, who knew Bennett at the Kansas aviation field. “You could say he got a lot of butt-chewing and extra detail.”

Crash: Pilot Chief Warrant Officer Bryan Nichols

Pilot Chief Warrant Officer Bryan Nichols, 31, was an Army Reservist assigned to the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment in New Century, Kan. 

Nichols' friend and fellow pilot, Lt. Col. Richard Sherman, told Fox4KC that Nichols loved to fly and was constantly working to be a better pilot. 

"The coolest thing I've ever done in the Army was inserting the pace car at the Texas Motor Speedway for a NASCAR race. He was my co-pilot when we did it. Flat out the coolest thing I've ever done in the Army. Now the saddest thing I've ever done in the Army is also tied to him."

Crash: Navy SEAL Stephen Matthew Mills

Navy SEAL Stephen Matthew Mills, of Fort Worth, Texas, was the leader of the 22-member SEAL Team 6 troop.

Mills leaves behind three children and his wife, whom he married earlier this year.

He served as a Navy SEAL for 10 years, and joined the Navy 14 years ago, Fox DFW reports.

Crash: Navy SEAL Michael Strange

Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Strange, 25, grew up in Philadelphia, but recently had 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."

Strange also leaves behind two younger siblings and his mother Elizabeth Strange, 46, who, mourning his loss, told the Associated Press, "He wasn't supposed to die this young. He was supposed to be safe. 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.’"

Crash: Navy SEAL Aaron Vaughn

Navy SEAL Aaron Carson Vaughn hailed from Tennessee, where family members say he was a proud father. His baby girl Chamberlyn was born in June.

Vaughn's unit deployed to Afghanistan two weeks after her birth.

His grandmother, Geneva Green Vaughn, told Fox8News, "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 is survived by his wife, a 2-year-old son, and his 2-month-old daughter.

Crash: Navy SEAL Chris Campbell

Navy SEAL Chris Campbell, 36, of Jacksonville, N.C., told his family that if he was killed in the line of duty, he wanted the local newspaper to write about his life and death, with a request for donations in his memory to the Wounded Warrior Project.

The project helps wounded service members recover from their war injuries.

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 determination.

"If Chris thought he could, he would try," she said.

Crash: Navy SEAL Pilot David Carter

Navy SEAL pilot David Carter, 47, of Aurora, Colo., had a passion for training young aviators, Army Guard Col. Chris Petty told the Army Times, and leaves behind "much more than dozens" of new pilots he taught.

Yolanda Levesque, a neighbor speaking for the pilot's family, called Carter an outstanding father, "a true Christian" and a patriot. "He was our American hero," Levesque said.

Carter is survived by his wife, Laura, and two children, Kyle and Kaitlen.

Crash: Navy SEAL Nick Spehar

Navy SEAL Nicholas Spehar, 24, of Chisago Lakes, Minn., was said to be a "quiet leader," a star in academics and three sports during his time at Chisago Lakes High School, Principal Dave Ertl told the Army Times.

"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."

Crash: Navy SEAL Jon Tumilson

Navy SEAL Jon Tumilson, 35, of Rockford, Iowa, is remembered by neighbors as a hero.
Jan Stowe told The Des Moines Register that Jon Tumilson was going to be a SEAL “since I can’t remember when.”

Tumilson was remembered as a feisty high school wrestler who later competed in marathons and triathlons as part of his preparation for a career with the special operations forces, The Army Times reports.

Crash: Navy SEAL Jason Workman

Navy SEAL Jason Workman, 32, of Blanding, Utah, had his sights set on becoming a SEAL as a young teenager.

“He didn’t become a Navy SEAL by chance,” friend Tate Bennett told The Deseret News. “He knew that’s what he wanted at a young age and made it happen.”

He was about 14 when his older brother graduated from West Point. That’s when he knew he wanted to be an elite soldier.

Then came the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, and Workman’s calling grew even stronger, The Army Times reports.

He is survived by his wife, Stacey, 21-month-old son, Jax, his parents and three brothers.

Crash: SEAL lou langlais

Special Warfare Operator Master Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Louis J. Langlais, 44, of Santa Barbara, Calif., is remembered by Atlantic Shores Baptist Church in Virginia Beach, Va., as an active member in the youth ministry and community.

"We're thankful for these guys. Every time we gather to worship we're free to do that because the men and women before them, and because of these men, who gave their lives," Rev. Kyle Wall, the pastor at Atlantic Shores, told Fox 43 News.

"We've set up a fund. We're supporting the SEAL Team fund to give to the entire group."

Crash: Navy SEAL John Faas

Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) John W. Faas, 31, of Minneapolis, Minn., served in the military for 12 years.

The family issued the following statement : "Words cannot describe the loss of our son, Chief Petty Officer John Weston Faas. John was a man of unquestionable integrity and courage, as were those he served with. He became a SEAL to serve his country and to make the world a better place for those less fortunate. John made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting the ideals of our nation; while doing a job he loved, and while serving with the people he loved. Although his life was tragically cut short, his spirit will live on in his family and friends, and the brave men who served by his side until his death.”

Crash: Nicholas H. Null

Nicholas H. Null, 30, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Chief Petty Officer (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist/Diver), Washington, W.Va., is survived by his wife Tanya and three children.

Crash: Navy SEAL Heath M. Robinson

Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Heath M. Robinson, 34, of Detroit, Mich., is remembered by his community as a hard worker.

His high school Athletic Director Gary Hice told The Detroit Free Press, “It’s pretty devastating. It’s just a great family – good people. I can see him becoming a Navy SEAL. He was hardworking, dedicated and loyal.”

Hice said Robinson played football at Petoskey High School and had two younger brothers.

Crash: Navy SEAL jared day

Information Systems Technician Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist) Jared W. Day, 28, of Taylorsville, Utah, is remembered by friends and family as a true patriot.

His family released a statement saying, “Jared was killed doing what he loved. He died alongside his friends, some of the bravest men this world has ever known.”

“He was truly special, not only to our family, but to this country.”

Jesse D.Pittman

Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Jesse D. Pittman, 27, of Ukiah, Calif., first served as a CalFire firefighter in the Mendocino Unit in 2003-2004 before enlisting in the Navy.

"He came in one day and told me he was joining the Navy to become a SEAL," friend Chris Wilkes told the Willits News. "I loved that kid to death; he was a wonderful young man. It was what he wanted to do."

Pittman is survived by his mother and father, Terry and Ida.

Crash: andrew harvell

Staff Sgt. Andrew W. Harvell, 26, of Long Beach, Calif., is survived by wife Krista Danielle (Klonk) and two sons, Hunter, 3, and Ethan, 5 months.

Ultimate Sacrifice: Remembering the American Heroes Killed in Helicopter Crash

A total of 30 American troops were killed over the weekend when their Chinook helicopter crashed on a mission targeting a Taliban leader in Afghanistan. Their sacrifice is not lost on the Americans whose freedoms these brave troops swore to uphold, and whose safety was at the heart of the mission. The information included here is culled from family members and media reports, as well as the official list of deceased released by the Pentagon.

More From Our Sponsors