Eight Navy SEALs (search) and eight members of the Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment known as the Night Stalkers (search) were aboard the Chinook helicopter that crashed in the eastern mountains of Afghanistan on Tuesday, the military said. It was the deadliest single blow to American forces fighting an escalating insurgency in the country.
CLARKS GROVE, Minn. — Warrant Officer Corey J. Goodnature, 35, was on his fourth tour of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"He never made us feel like it was dangerous for him to be there, so we just took it for granted that he was going to be safe," said his father, Don Goodnature.
Corey Goodnature, who grew up in Clarks Grove in southern Minnesota, earned an associate's degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Minnesota (search) in 1991 and had always wanted a military career.
"One thing about Corey — he never wavered," said his mother, Deb Goodnature, who last spoke with him on Mother's Day.
Corey Goodnature was assigned to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment based at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga. He and his wife, Lori, lived in Savannah, Ga., with their two sons, Shea, 14, and Brennan, 12.
NEW ORLEANS — Chief Petty Officer Jacques Fontan, 36, was serving his final days of deployment when he was killed, relatives said.
"He's my baby brother, we were very close," said his sister, Suzanne Fontan Gonczy. "The family is obviously devastated."
Fontan joined the Navy 17 years ago, said his father, Earl Fontan.
He served as a fire control specialist aboard Navy fighting ships, managing electronics that controlled weapons systems, and was a veteran of the first Persian Gulf War. He was serving at the Naval Amphibious Base in Little Creek, Va.
Jacques Fontan had planned to retire with his wife in Florida, his father said. "Family was important to him. On leaves, he spent them with our family — most of which was in New Orleans, some of which now is in Atlanta," Earl Fontan said. "He was great with his niece and nephews. He delighted in playing roughhouse with them."
PRINEVILLE, Ore. — Petty Officer 1st Class Jeff Lucas had been in the Navy since he was just 17 and had been assigned to Afghanistan since last November, his family said.
"He was a warrior, he was a patriot, he was a good father, a good husband, a great brother," said his brother, Jamie. "I'm proud of him. I'm proud of all of them."
Lucas doted on his wife, Rhonda, and his 4-year-old son, Seth, said his father, Rick Lucas. They live in Virginia Beach, Va., where Jeff Lucas had been stationed for the past several years.
"I feel like I lost a good friend," his father said.
Lucas, 34, had been a running back in high school and played basketball and ran track, Rick Lucas said. As an adult, he loved to ski and golf, even buying his young son a set of toy clubs.
INDIANAPOLIS — Sgt. 1st Class Marcus V. Muralles planned to return to the United States in time to celebrate his daughter's 10th birthday on Monday until another medic suffered a leg injury, family members said.
"When the Army officer came to tell us that Marcus was on the helicopter, I told him that couldn't be," Muralles' stepfather, Bob Dill of Shelbyville, said Saturday.
"I said, 'His wife talked to him two days ago and he was all packed up and ready to go for his daughter's birthday,"' Dill said.
Muralles, 33, had been in the Army since 1994 and was a flight medic in the elite special operations forces.
He was born in Louisiana and raised in Shelbyville, about 20 miles southeast of Indianapolis. He and his wife had two children. He served with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
POMPANO BEACH, Fla. — Sgt. Kip A. Jacoby grew up in Pompano Beach and enlisted in the Army in October 2002, the year he graduated from high school.
"Kip believed his choice of service for our country was meaningful and right," his parents, Stephen and Susan of Pompano, Fla., said in a statement. "He loved what he was doing, he knew the risks, and he was proud to be a soldier fighting so others wouldn't have to. He made us very proud."
"He was smart, gifted, and innovative. He has touched all of our lives in ways we can never forget. Even in the face of danger, he showed courage and bravery as well as a keen sense of humor," they wrote.
Jacoby, 21, was trained as a helicopter repairman. His assignment was as a flight engineer in the Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Chief Warrant Officer Chris Scherkenbach had served tours in Germany and Korea before being sent to Afghanistan.
"Our family very much appreciates the outpouring of support and prayers that we have received from our friends and communities," his family said in a statement. "Chris will be dearly missed as a devoted husband, as well as a loving son, brother and uncle."
"Chris died doing what he loved," his family said in a statement.
The 40-year-old Jacksonville native had enlisted in the Army in 1987. He was based with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.
DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — Petty Officer 2nd Class James Suh had joined the Navy in early 2001, when he was 24.
He began his rigorous SEAL training five months after he entered the Navy. His latest assignment was in SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team One, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Members of the 28-year-old's family declined to comment when reached at their Deerfield Beach home late Saturday.
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Lt. Cmdr. Erik S. Kristensen, 33, was the senior officer among the SEAL team, Pentagon officials said.
He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1997 and was assigned to SEAL Team Ten in Virginia Beach, Va.
Kristensen was the only child of retired Read Adm. Edward K. Kristensen and Suzanne Kristensen, who live in the Washington area. His father oversaw the Navy's salvage efforts of TWA Flight 800, which crashed off Long Island, N.Y., in 1996, The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk reported.
FRANKLIN, Tenn. — Sgt. 1st Class James "Tre" Ponder III was an unlikely hero — "not real tall, somewhat thin, but tough as nails," said his father-in-law, the mayor of Ponder's hometown in central Tennessee.
"He was a young man who could love his young children and then go out into the desert and fight with a great deal of energy. He's a real warrior, and the warrior in him has made this situation somewhat comforting for the family," father-in-law Tom Miller said.
Ponder, 36, grew up in Franklin, 15 miles south of Nashville, and enlisted in the Army after a few semesters at Auburn University.
He was a father of two young girls and a flight commander stationed with the Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Fort Campbell, Ky. He had been overseas for about three weeks when the helicopter was shot down, Miller said.
"My granddaughter just this week asked her mother the question as they were saying their prayers and asking for safety for Tre. She said, 'Mommy, how do we know when Jesus is calling Daddy home to be an angel?" Miller said. "Faith and knowing that Tre is doing what God wanted him to do is sustaining the family."
WASHINGTON, Conn. — Maj. Steve Reich carried the U.S. flag for Team USA as its pitcher in the early 1990s, then proved his patriotism on the battlefield in Afghanistan.
"Steve was always able to do everything he tried. People imagined any corner or situation he got himself into he would come out of it," said Richard Sears, a town official in Washington, Reich's hometown in the rolling hills of northwestern Connecticut.
Reich, 34, was on his fourth tour of duty. He had been a company commander in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., and had been married just four months earlier.
As a young man, Reich had been a star pitcher for the U.S. Military Academy and represented Team USA in 1993 at the World University games on a team that included major leaguers Paul Wilson, Todd Helton, Todd Walker and Dustin Hermanson. He pitched briefly in the Baltimore Orioles system in 1996 before being recalled to active duty.
"You see this big, huge smile of pride," family spokesman Gary Fitzherbert said, remembering Reich carrying the flag at the 1993 games. "That's how we all remember him."
Helton, now a first baseman for the Colorado Rockies, remembered Reich as "one of the nicest guys I ever met."
FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — Master Sgt. Michael Russell had been sent to Afghanistan six times since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but he never complained about the deployments.
He "was doing what he absolutely loved to do. It was a dream for him," said his uncle, Kenneth Luehrs of Spotsylvania County.
The 31-year-old flight engineer was a member of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga. He had joined the Army after graduating from North Stafford High School in 1991.
His father, Lee Russell, said he last spoke with his son a few days before his deployment a month and a half ago.
"When he went back this time, he told me they would be really busy," Lee Russell said. On previous missions, he said, his son had been able to call or e-mail once every two weeks.
Michael Russell's duties often kept him away from his two young daughters, his father said, but when he was home, "he was with them all the time."
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Senior Chief Petty Officer Dan Healy joined the military after high school and became a Navy SEAL and father of four.
He was midway through a six-month tour in the Middle East when the helicopter was shot down, his mother, Natalie Healy, said.
"He was a lovely young man who loved his children, his family, his service," she said. "He was proud to serve his country. He was very happy to have the opportunity to fight."
Dan Healy, 36, had gone to school in Exeter, N.H. He had two children living in San Diego and two in Honolulu, where he was stationed at Pearl Harbor, his mother said. She remembered visiting the family last year and the fun they had horseback riding and going to the zoo.
"His greatest joy was being with his children," she said. "He loved to enjoy life. He loved his friends."
PORTVILLE, N.Y. — Lt. Michael McGreevy was the kid who had it all.
"He was a great athlete, great student, nice personality, and was so polite," said Linda Scott, a high school guidance counselor in Portville, a town of about 4,000 near the Pennsylvania border.
McGreevy graduated third in his class, then enrolled at the U.S. Naval Academy for a career serving his country.
"Everyone just described him as a true gentleman," school Principal Kevin Curran said.
At 30, he was a Navy SEAL with a 1-year-old child in Virginia Beach, Va.
BECKLEY, W.Va. — Petty Officer 1st Class Jeff Taylor joined the Navy after high school and became a medic on a SEALs quick response team with dreams of going into an officer training program.
His family knew he had been deployed but didn't know where until Navy officials knocked on their door, said his step-father, Jim Bowman.
"We only knew he was deployed. We are not allowed to know where he is," Bowman said. "What they were doing was pretty secretive."
Taylor, 30, grew up in Hotchkiss, where he was a wrestler in high school. He and his wife, Erin, lived in Little Creek, Va. His younger brother also joined the military and is a senior airman, Bowman said.
LAS VEGAS — Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Shane Patton was following in his father's steps when he joined the military and became a Navy SEAL.
"Boulder City and the state of Nevada lost a true hero. His sacrifice and love of country will not be forgotten," said Keith Gronquist, a court administrator who works with Patton's father, James Patton, a city marshal and retired Navy SEAL.
Eric Patton was a 2000 graduate of Boulder City High School.
DANVILLE, Ohio — Staff Sgt. Shamus Goare tricked his mother into letting him join the military at the age of 17, shortly before his high school graduation.
Twelve years later, he was a member of an elite Army team known as the Night Stalkers, trained to fly special forces commandos behind enemy lines under cover of night.
His father, Charles Goare, said he and his wife were proud of their son, a member of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment based at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga. He remembered how their son had fooled his mother, Judy, into signing his enlistment form.
"He told her it was a form for something else; I don't remember what," Charles Goare said. "That was 11 years ago."
"He thought maybe he's get to see the world before he went to college," he said. "Then he just stayed in."