- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 9, 2002

NORFOLK (AP) The Navy SEAL who was slain after falling out of his stricken helicopter in Afghanistan wrote his wife an open-in-the-event-of-my-death letter in which he assured her: "I died doing what made me happy."

"Although I sacrificed personal freedom and many other things, I got just as much as I gave. My time in the Teams was special," Neil Roberts, 32, wrote. "For all the times I was cold, wet, tired, sore, scared, hungry and angry, I had a blast."

Petty Officer 1st Class Roberts, a Norfolk-based sailor from Woodland, Calif., was one of seven Americans who died Monday after U.S. helicopters were hit by enemy gunfire in Afghanistan. Petty Officer Roberts fell to the ground as his helicopter, hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, veered away toward safer ground. He apparently survived the fall and was shot on the ground.

Whether he was dragged away by al Qaeda fighters and fatally shot, whether he was already dead when taken away, or whether he was wounded when taken and died later is not clear, said Army Gen. Tommy Franks, the U.S. war commander.

The U.S. military encourages members to update their wills and otherwise get their personal affairs in order before they leave on assignment.

The Roberts family is grieving in private, but friend Christina Kalassay released a portion of the letter because Petty Officer Roberts' widow, Patty, wanted to tell people a little bit about her husband, the father of her 18-month-old son.

"Neil would want everyone to remember him as a loving husband and father, a loving son and brother, a true friend and warrior who never once questioned his commitment to his family or his country," Miss Kalassay said in a statement.

Petty Officer Roberts, who had a twin brother and 10 other siblings, wrote in his letter that he treasured his childhood and that his family's support and care made him the person he was. He also expressed how much being in the Navy meant to him.

"I loved being a SEAL," he wrote. "If I died doing something for the Teams, then I died doing what made me happy. Very few people have the luxury of that."

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