Some were just a few years out of high school.
Others had served for decades. And most were our neighbors.
They all died a year ago today when their transport helicopter on a rescue mission was blasted from the sky in Afghanistan.
Today we look back at the heroes from the Navy, Army and Air Force.
Michael Strange was 25. He was a first-class petty officer and a cryptologist. Louis Langlais was 44, a master chief petty officer and a SEAL.
Some were young and eager. Others, experienced veterans. Most were in their 30s. They were fathers, husbands, devoted family men, and some of the most skilled warriors the country has ever produced. Most were SEALs from the honored and secretive Team 6.
At the National Navy SEAL memorial, an artist chiseled their names on the wall last fall. Kimberly Vaughn, wife of SEAL Aaron Vaughn, told us then that because of their secret jobs, families could never brag in public about how proud they were of these men, until a tragedy freed them from the secrecy.
“It’s bittersweet. It seems that only in his death are we really able to celebrate his accomplishments,” says Vaughn.
The men lived in two very different worlds. They were sent into battle to kill the nation’s enemies. Yet at home, their families say they were calm and caring, devoted to their children and their country. In short, they were the best of the best.
“I get to see such a different side to Aaron. He is gentle and compassionate, a fabulous husband and father. But yeah, when he went to work, it was a different switch, he was pretty intense. But they all are,” says Vaughn.
It was the largest single loss of life in Navy SEAL history. Seventeen SEALs died in the crash, along with 13 other sailors, soldiers and airmen. Today all across the country, families remember the men who died in battle.
“It is just a horrible thing to have to go through. The hardest thing, hopefully, I will ever have to go through. But they knew this was their calling, to be warriors for their country. And Aaron was faithful in Christ, and knew if it was his time to go, then it was his time to go,” says Vaughn.