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Posted: 6/28/2003 6:02:35 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 6/28/2003 6:06:22 AM EDT by u-baddog]
This is from my local paper, These guys are true hometown hero's. [:(] [img]http://www.hamptonroads.com/images/military/retzerspot.jpg[/img] VIRGINIA BEACH -- A local Navy commando died this week after a firefight with suspected rebels in eastern Afghanistan, military officials confirmed Friday. Petty Officer 1st Class Thomas E. Retzer was wounded Wednesday after his convoy encountered enemy forces outside Gardez. Retzer, 30, was taken to Bagram air base hospital in Afghanistan, where he died Thursday from his injuries. The military withheld his name until late Friday so next of kin could be notified. Retzer was the third elite Navy SEAL from Virginia Beach killed in Afghanistan. The others died in March 2002 in separate incidents. ``What you have to understand is that the Navy special warfare community is pretty small -- less than 5,000,'' said Lt. John Perkins, a spokesman for Naval Special Warfare Group Two at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base. ``One or two people makes a huge difference. ``These deaths, yeah, they're hard. Teamwork is stressed. Everyone feels like they lost a team member.'' As a radio operator and technician, Retzer deployed as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, the military's name for the still-simmering war in Afghanistan. Officials declined to say when he deployed. Starting in October 2001, the war in Afghanistan became a showcase for America's special operations forces, who moved in small bands to help overthrow the government and excise terrorist cells. But the conflict has also been cloaked in secrecy, and officials declined Friday to describe Wednesday's battle in any detail. Two other U.S. personnel were wounded in the attack; their names are being withheld at their request. A 10-year Navy veteran, Retzer is survived by his wife, Courtney, and two sons, ages 5 and 21 months. Courtney Retzer declined to speak to a reporter Friday, but issued a statement late Friday thanking friends and supporters of the family. Wives of other SEALs gathered at the family's home in the Strawbridge section of the city. An American flag hung outside and a yellow ribbon was tied around the porch railing. The wives, who asked not to be named, described Tom Retzer as a man in love with anything outdoors, from going to the beach to mowing the lawn. The family asked that, in lieu of flowers, mourners send donations to the Thomas E. Retzer Memorial Fund for high school graduates who are children of SEALs. Checks should be sent to Account No. 2778934, First Command Bank, P.O. Box 2387, Fort Worth, Texas, 76113. Funeral arrangements are pending. Originally from Southern California, Retzer graduated from Mount Whitney High School in Visalia, Calif. Shortly after enlisting in 1993, he entered Basic Underwater Demolition and SEAL training in San Diego. He graduated in 1994 as part of SEAL Class No. 198. His awards and decorations include the Joint Service Achievement Medal, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, two Good Conduct Medals, Meritorious Unit Commendation, and the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal. He also has several other individual awards pending approval, officials said. His death was a result of a clash in a mountainous region south of the capital city of Kabul near the border of Pakistan. According to news reports, the area has been volatile recently, including terrorist bombings against American-led coalition forces. SEALs are the Navy's special operations commandos. Though specialists in maritime and amphibious operations, the name ``SEAL'' stands for ``Sea, Air, Land,'' which means that SEALs are trained to enter combat zones from vessels, aircraft or ground transportation. The Navy divides its special forces between the East and West coasts. Four SEAL teams call Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base in Virginia Beach home and another four are based in Southern California. The first locally based SEAL killed in Afghanistan was Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts, 32, on March 4 in a battle with al-Qaida and Taliban diehards in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan. On March 28, Chief Petty Officer Matthew J. Bourgeois, 35, was killed in an explosion at a remote training site south of Kandahar. Perkins declined to say how many locally based SEALs are deployed today in Afghanistan. There have been 421 American casualties, including 81 killed, during the war in Afghanistan, according to the latest published reports. About 11,500 coalition troops, the majority of them American, are in Afghanistan today to hunt down remnants of the former Taliban regime and their allies.
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