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Two years later, questions unanswered for families of 'Extortion 17' Navy Seals

Friday, August 30, 2013 - 12:01 am

By May 3, 2011, only 48 hours after their triumph, the Navy Seals knew their days were numbered. Twenty-five-year-old Michael Strange knew when he grabbed his dad on three separate occasions, looked him squarely in the eye and informed him he’d prepared his will. Aaron Vaughn knew when he called his mom and warned her to wipe her social media clean of any reference to him or his buddies. They knew when they kissed their wives goodbye and headed once again to that godforsaken outback on the other side of the world.

These men, America’s finest who never sought recognition or fame for themselves, now had targets on their backs — outed by a cocky vice president, a vice president who knew he could use their exploit for political swag.

On Aug. 6, 93 days after the alleged capture/kill in Abbottabad, the last grains of sand slipped through the hourglass.

The full moon illuminated the terrain below as the Vietnam-era chopper dubbed “Extortion 17” chauffeured the Seals into the Tangeen Valley, mecca of Taliban hostility. Under the pretext of rescuing Army Rangers pinned down in a firefight, the Chinook wound its way unescorted into the valley of death. Packed tightly in the cabin, shoulder to shoulder in heavy gear, the Seals stared straight ahead, only occasionally catching and confirming the knowing glance of a fellow warrior.

“The only easy day was yesterday.” They knew!

Thirty American heroes perished that night, the largest loss in the history of Naval Special Warfare, the costliest loss of life in the entire Afghan War — 22 American Special Operations Personnel, including 15 members of the storied Seal Team Six, three members of the United States Air Force and five Army National Guard and Army Reserve crewmen.

At the memorial service to honor the deceased at Dover, Del., on Aug. 9, President Obama promised a grieving Charles Strange, “We’re going to look into this very, very deep.” Yet two years later, with no answers in sight, against the scrim of Benghazi, the president’s words ring hollow.

But just as the Seals were “forged by adversity,” so, too, are their families, and they will not allow this calamity to be covered up by an administration intent on “shifting the narrative and burying the truth-tellers.” These exceptional parents who birthed and mentored their superb warrior sons are now demanding a congressional investigation. They want answers. They need to know.

If this mission was so dangerous it had to authorize out of theater, then why was an outdated CH-47 helicopter, a vehicle better used for hurricane relief, sent into an active battle? Who made the call? Who decided to send a ’copter full of America’s most precious asset with no gunship escort, no pre-assault fire, no drone and no “eye in the sky”? Why were so many special ops being transported all together in a single aircraft? Why were the elite special ops flying with Afghan personnel? What was the chain of command? Why were seven Afghan commandos pulled and seven substituted at the last second without changing the manifest? Why were the bodies immediately cremated without permission from the families? Why is the black box missing?

Why are the Afghan National Army, the Afghan National Police and the Afghan Security Ministry involved in the planning and execution of every U.S. combat operation? Was the flight plan leaked to the Taliban? Did Karzai cut a deal with the Taliban, or was there an even more sinister quid pro quo? Did Obama’s “Rules of Engagement” prevent our military from returning fire even though they were under attack? Why is our president afraid to name the enemy? Is the “heart and mind of the enemy” more valuable than the life of a single United States soldier?

Finally, the parents demand to know who sanctioned the protocol at a memorial service at Bagram Airbase in Kabul, which prohibited the mention of Jehovah God, while allowing an Islamic imam to say prayers in Arabic over the remains of the fallen — prayers that condemned their sons to eternal damnation as infidels.

The poppies grow and American blood flows. Back in the states Obama plays 18 holes. But for those of “Extortion 17” and their families, the world has stopped.

The Navy Seals knew but they dared not speak. Now it is up to us to honor their courage, their heroism, their sacrifice and to uncover the truth in their behalf. Please call Congressman Jason Chaffetz (202-225-7751) and Congressman Darrell Issa (202-225-3906) and insist on a thorough congressional examination.

Connie Kovas Moreno is a resident of Fort Wayne.