Parents of fallen SEAL will speak in HollisBy BARBARA TAORMINA
Union Leader Correspondent
February 12. 2014 10:08PM
In May, 2011, Navy SEAL Team 6 raided Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, killed the al Qaeda leader and gave Americans a sense of justice that had been elusive since the terror attacks of 9/11.
Three months later, a Chinook military helicopter carrying a group of soldiers to Wardak Province in Central Afghanistan to back up a unit of Army Rangers was shot down. All 38 people on board were killed, including 22 members of SEAL Team 6.
The Aug. 6, 2011, tragedy is considered the biggest loss of American life during the war in Afghanistan.
Fellow SEALS and other military personnel openly grieved on Facebook and in other online tributes. Over time, the families of some of those lost in the attack began to ask questions and then demand answers about what happened.
This Saturday, Billy and Karen Vaughn, the parents of Aaron Vaughn, one of the members of SEAL Team 6 who died during that attack, will be at the Lawrence Barn in Hollis to discuss their search for answers about their son’s death. Billy Vaughn has outlined their questions and concerns in his 2013 book, “Betrayed.”
The Vaughns’ appearance, which starts at 4 p.m., is sponsored by Act! For America, a conservative organization that promotes vigilance against terrorism, particularly against militant Islamists.
The Vaughns, who have been sharply critical of the Obama administration’s actions in the wake of the SEAL Team 6 raid in Pakistan, also have been embraced by Tea Party groups who welcome their criticism of the President.
Politics aside, the Vaughns have a story to tell that addresses issues that may be of interest to veterans and their families, as well as to those currently serving.
Family members of those who died in the helicopter attack were given 1,300 pages of information from the official investigation, and Vaughn used those documents in researching and writing “Betrayed.”
One of the central questions raised is: Did the rules of engagement for American soldiers put SEAL Team 6 at risk?
The Vaughns, as well as other parents of the SEALs who died, have other questions about the mission. They wonder about the use of an old cargo helicopter to carry the SEALS into the area where there was fighting.
They have questions about why there wasn’t an escort for the SEALS. And why, at the last minute, were seven Iraqi soldiers who were on the flight manifest replaced by seven different Iraqi soldiers?
Pelham resident Denise Gionet, a medical support assistant at the Manchester Veterans Administration Medical Center and the head of New Hampshire’s Gold Star Mothers, understands what the Vaughns and other families have been through. Her son, Daniel, an army medic, died on June 4, 2006, when an explosion hit his tank as it was traveling in Taji, Iraq.
According to published reports, military personnel told Denise Gionet that her son was unaware of how severely he had been injured and told medics to help his lieutenant first.
Still, Gionet had other questions.
“I wanted to know everything, but they weren’t able to tell me,” she said. Although she received an official report, she said, much of it was redacted.
“They say they can’t tell us everything because of security reasons, but you absolutely want to know,” she said.