“Seal Team Six” became an everyday word. I even had a water treatment system solicitor come to my door a few days’ after all the bin Laden publicity and, when he saw he wasn’t making the sale, pulled the “I’m a former Navy Seal” line on me. Trust me, if he was a Navy Seal, I was, well, someone younger, stronger, and fiercer.
Then came the news over the weekend of the shoot-down by the Taliban of a Chinook helicopter carrying members of Seal Team Six (including a specially trained Seal dog), an Army aircrew, two Airmen, and several Afghan commandos. At first it seemed like a non-military event because what military wants to admit that the rag-tag Taliban could bring down a U.S. helicopter. Just ask the former Soviets how naive that concept is. After the admission that the helicopter had been shot down, some weekend anchors heard “Seal Team Six” and started mourning the crew who had taken out Osama bin Laden, not realizing that a Seal Team has several hundred members. I will admit when I first heard someone say that I wondered what idiot officer (Dad was a career non-com) had put the team members from the bin Laden raid back in a country where keeping secrets isn’t easy. Some anchor then compounded the idiocy by “thanking goodness” it wasn’t the same team. Idiot.
I’ve tried all weekend to come up with words to express my feelings. I feel every loss in both these wars. When the Washington Post prints pictures of the fatalities, I look at each picture. I read each name and home town. No war since World War II has touched my family in that way. Cousins came through Vietnam and Desert Storm physically unscathed, so I felt I owed that to the families who suffered the ultimate loss, an acknowledgement of their sacrifice. I’m a born Virginian (yes, there is a distinction), and Seal Team Six is based in Virginia Beach, VA. In that way, it was a home-state loss, and Virginia will step up and comfort these new widows and fatherless children, these parents who have lost sons who gave the last full measure of devotion.
The Seals would say they were just doing their job. In this instance it was rescuing some Army Rangers who had been pinned down in a Taliban stronghold. Had it all gone successfully, the two groups probably would have met up in the Green Zone and traded jabs about how the Navy had to come to land and rescued the Army. There would have been a lot of macho posturing I have little patience with, but everyone would have understood you don’t leave your people behind, regardless of which service they belong to. And the Rangers would have begrudgingly given the Seals their due. Begrudgingly.
Instead, there will be too many funerals, too many flags pressed into the shaking hands of next of kin, too many 21-gun salutes, too many playings of Taps. Too many tears will be shed, too many nights will be spent alone in a bed meant for two. There will be too many nightmares where children wake wanting their Daddy. In the past ten years, there has already been too much of this, but that’s another matter. Right now, families and a country will come together to mourn and, then, carry on. The Seals would expect nothing less.
The title of this post is an unofficial Seal motto. How apt for the weeks to come as bodies are identified and sent home to be honored and laid to rest. For the families, it can only be a mantra.