I want to be a Navy SEAL. Really, for about as long as I can remember, I've wanted to be part of the legendary SEALs.
I say this with the knowledge that I will never be part of the greatest fighting force in the world - I'm headed in another direction with my life, and I probably couldn't make it as a SEAL. But a guy can always dream of being one of those elite warriors.
On Saturday, when I heard about the thirty-eight men who were killed in Afghanistan, it was numbing. All the more so when it came out that twenty-two of the deaths were SEALs, members of SEAL team 6.
The twenty-two SEALs who were in the Chinook helicopter shot down in Afghanistan didn't have any more intrinsic value than the three Air Force Special Operations Forces, the five US Army personnel, the seven Afghan Commandos, or the interpreter.
What makes the twenty-two SEAL deaths so striking is that these guys were the best of the best. SEALs exude this sense of invincibility, magnified all the more by their successful raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound. The SEALs are the most elite fighting force that has ever existed on this earth. And SEAL team 6 is the most elite of the elite.
Kimberly Vaughn saw TV reports about the downed helicopter Saturday morning, but the tragedy reached her home when her doorbell rang.
"I thought, 'Oh, hopefully it's just a neighbor,' and as I rounded the stairs I saw the men in uniform and I just fell to my knees," she said. "There's no preparing for it. It's something you see in the movies. It's not something you're supposed to live through."
Her father was standing with her to hold her up as the Navy officers told her that her husband was killed in action.
"I fell to my knees and cried and didn't want to hear it, but it's the truth," Vaughn said. "You want it to be a mistake. You want them to say it's the wrong person, but I wouldn't wish this on anyone."
Aaron Vaughn called his wife's cell phone Friday afternoon and spoke to her and their 2-year-old son Reagan, she said.
"It was actually a great conversation -- probably just about time before he went out to work that night," she said. "We got to tell each other we loved each other, so it was a great conversation to have."
Aaron and Kimberly, married for three years, also have a 2-month-old daughter, Chamberlyn. He was stationed in Virginia Beach, Virginia,
"I want to tell the world that he was an amazing man, that he was a wonderful husband, and a fabulous father to two wonderful children," she said. "He was a warrior for Christ and he was a warrior for our country and he wouldn't want to leave this Earth any other way than how he did."
Vaughn's grandmother called him "a great American" who wanted to be a Navy SEAL ever since he was a boy.
Geneva Carson Vaughn recalled one of the last conversations she had with him.
"I told him to be careful and he said, 'Granny, don't worry about me.' He said 'I'm not afraid because I know where I'm going if something happens to me.' Aaron was a Christian and he stood firm in his faith," she said, her voice heavy with emotion.
"He's with the Lord now and I'll see him again some day."
"Amazing man." "Wonderful husband." "Fabulous father." "Warrior for Christ." "Great American." That's quite an impressive list. When I die someday, I can only hope that people will say some of the same things about me.
Aaron Vaughn sounds like he was an incredible man. He was a hero not only the battlefield, but in his family as well. That's saying something. I won't ever be a SEAL, but I hope that I can emulate Aaron Vaughn in the other areas of his life.
I consider very few people my personal heroes - it's a pretty exclusive group. But yesterday, as I read this, I added Navy SEAL Aaron Vaughn to that list.
Aaron Vaughn's grandmother said that she'll see him in heaven someday. I hope I get the same opportunity.