The American troops who died aboard a downed helicopter in Afghanistan came to the special forces from far-flung corners of the country, some motivated by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. They were intensely patriotic and talented young men with a love of physical challenges and a passion for the high-risk job they chose.
Thirty Americans and eight Afghans were killed last Saturday when a rocket-propelled grenade fired by a Taliban insurgent downed their Chinook helicopter en route to a combat mission.
The Pentagon on Thursday identified the Americans as 17 members of the elite Navy SEALs, five Naval Special Warfare personnel who support the SEALs, three Air Force Special Operations personnel and an Army helicopter crew of five.
All but two of the SEALs were from SEAL Team 6, the unit that killed Osama bin Laden, although military officials said none of the crash victims was on that mission in Pakistan against the al-Qaida leader.
Here are the stories of some of the fallen:
A severe arm injury during fighting in Fallujah in 2004 didn’t keep Matthew Mason off the Iraq War battlefield. Nor did it dull the competitive fire of the avid runner and former high school athlete from outside Kansas City.
“He could have gotten out of combat,” said family friend Elizabeth Frogge. “He just insisted on going back.”
Mason, the father of two toddler sons, grew up in Holt, Mo., and played football and baseball at Kearney High School. He graduated from Northwest Missouri State University in 1998. His wife, who is expecting their third child — another boy — also attended Northwest Missouri.
“He loved doing what he did,” she said. “He was the type of guy who thought he was invincible.”
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