9:52 p.m. EDT, August 7, 2011
“I just want you to tell everybody down there,” he said, “that his goal was to make everyone around him comfortable — and safe.”
As Kennedy was reeling Sunday from the death of his larger-than-life buddy, stunned residents of Hampton Roads experienced the same feeling more than 20 times over.
Thirty U.S. troops were killed early Saturday in Afghanistan when their CH-47F Chinook helicopter was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, according to news reports. Most of the men on board were elite Navy SEALs based in Virginia Beach, including Houston.
It was the deadliest day of the Afghanistan war, and it came at the expense of some of the best-trained troops the U.S. military has to offer.
The SEALs had successfully ended a rescue mission, coming to the relief of of U.S. Army Rangers who were taking heavy fire, said sources cited by Associated Press. They were leaving in the Chinook when the attack happened.
Naval Special Warfare officials did not release an official death toll on Sunday, but multiple media reports said 22 SEALs were killed. A Navy Times report, citing a source, said 17 were SEALs and five were direct support personnel. Most were from SEAL Team 6 based in Dam Neck.
Houston was raised in Massachusetts, but his mother moved to Chesapeake to be near her son.
“He never met a stranger,” said Jan Brown in a telephone interview. “He was curious about everyone and their lives. And he wasn’t opinionated. He gave everyone a break.”
Kennedy echoed that. The two met as 10-year-olds and Kennedy is now 35. Even back then, he said, Houston wanted to be a SEAL.
“He was selfless, absolutely selfless,” Kennedy said. “He didn’t wait for his turn to talk. He waited for his turn to listen.”
Elsewhere around the country, the grim news trickled out name by name as grief-stricken family members began notifying the media.
Geneva Vaughn of Union City, Tenn., said she lost her grandson, Navy SEAL Aaron Carson Vaughn.
“Aaron was a gentle man but a brave warrior,” she said. “He loved his country and his loved his family. He loved life.”
She said he had lived in Virginia Beach for about a year. He and his wife were building a house. The couple had a 2-year-old son and a 2-month-old daughter.
In Arkansas, State Rep. Jon Woods mourned the death of his high school friend, John W. Brown. According to one media report that quoted Brown’s mother, he was an Air Force tech sergeant in a paramedic unit attached to the SEALs and stationed at Pope Air Force Base in Pinehurst, N.C., where he and his wife lived.
“When I think of John, I think of the perfect soldier,” he said. “If you watch Captain America, he’s the guy who came out of that experiment.”
They graduated high school together in 1996, and Woods recalls the two of them staying up late to watch Saturday Night Live. Brown loved jokes, had a great sense of humor and was big fan of comedians Chris Farley and Adam Sandler.
using the number/letter grid:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
A B C D E F G H I
J K L M N O P Q R
S T U V W X Y Z
A = 1 J = 1 S = 1
B = 2 K = 2 T = 2
C = 3 L = 3 U = 3
D = 4 M = 4 V = 4
E = 5 N = 5 W = 5
F = 6 O = 6 X = 6
G = 7 P = 7 Y = 7
H = 8 Q = 8 Z = 8
I = 9 R = 9
how he obtained his heart’s desire = KN = 25 = Championing a cause.
find out your own numerology at: