Families of 22 Navy SEALs killed come forward

In Afghanistan on Sunday, U.S. recovery teams removed the wreckage of the Chinook helicopter shot down by the Taliban in Wardak province, as well as the remains of the 30 Americans who were killed.

CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports that the families of the group of men lost - which included 22 elite Navy SEALs - are beginning to come forward in their grief.

The pictures they provide show young men, many with children, from across the United States -- Nebraska, Iowa, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, and Pennsylvania. Michael Strange was a Navy SEAL on his third tour in Afghanistan.

"Michael loved protecting our country," said his father, Michael Strange Sr.

Speaking from the family home in Philadelphia, his father was inconsolable over the loss of a local hero who died a long way from home.

"He loved Philadephia. He loved North Catholic, Mayfair, and he loved all you guys and all of his friends. All of the kids who were here yesterday," Strange Sr. said.

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Two of the 22 SEALs who died - Lt. Commander Jonas Kelsall and Chief Petty Officer Robert Reeves - had actually gone to high school together in Shreveport, Louisiana. The mother of John Brown said her son was the team's medic.

"His specific job was to be with them and to see to their medical needs and to see to their rescue in the situation that they'd been taken hostage or something like that," Brown's mother told CBS News.

Most of the SEALs were members of the now famous SEAL Team Six, which killed Osama bin Laden. None of them had been on that raid, but with their deaths, SEAL Team Six becomes a symbol of both the triumph and the tragedy of war.

It was a night raid into the Tanji Valley, west of Kabul. One team had already hit the target - the compound of the local Taliban leader - and called for help from SEAL Team Six. Their Chinook helicopter was apparently hit by a rocket propelled grenade, although that has yet to be verified by examination of the wreckage. There were no survivors.

Later this week, their bodies will be flown to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where they will be met by their families, along with the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and, possibly, the president.

In the short term, the devastating loss will have little impact on the war effort, because it means there's one less unit to conduct these nighttime raids, but there are 10,000 special operations forces in Afghanistan. The real impact of this raid will be seen in the public support for the war.

CBS News correspondent Seth Doane, currently in Afghanistan, says the crash was a devastating blow emotionally and psychologically to troops there. The crash was the most-discussed topic on every base CBS News visited over the weekend.

Still, many troops say they will soldier on, that they mourn but remember they still have a mission.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.