O2X HQ Remembers our Heroes
Memorial Day weekend is a bittersweet time of year around O2X HQ. On one hand, the holiday weekend has come to signify a kick-start to summer. And many, including those at HQ, will take advantage of a long weekend to camp, boat, fish, hike, and grill with family and friends.
But we also realize that Memorial Day itself (May 31st) represents something much bigger. It’s a time to remember the men and women who have sacrificed everything for our freedoms. Because of their courage and commitment, we have the luxury to pursue happiness in a safe and secure country.
As this weekend approached, we asked the combat veterans on the O2X team to take a minute to reflect on those they served with who made the ultimate sacrifice. Below, check out memories about our nation’s heroes. (In order to keep the focus on the individual who made ultimate sacrifice, and to respect the privacy of our veterans who shared these stories, we’ve kept their statements anonymous.)
“11 years ago, Captain Mark Garner lost his life in Afghanistan. Mark was a beloved husband, son, Army leader, and friend. Mark was well-known for his infectious smile and positive attitude. He always put his friends and Soldiers ahead of himself, and he gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to his country.
Mark graduated from West Point in 2002 and served as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division, where he deployed to Iraq several times. Mark then took command of an infantry company in Hohenfels, Germany. His company was deployed to support the surge in Afghanistan and was assigned to one of the most remote and dangerous regions north of the Argandab River valley. On July 6th, 2009, Mark lost his life in a complex ambush. Though Mark is no longer with us, he will live on forever in our memories and his sacrifice will never be forgotten.”
Dustin “Dusty” Wright:
“On October 4, 2017, while serving as a Special Forces Engineer Sergeant in 3rd Special Forces Group, SSG Dustin “Dusty” Wright made the ultimate sacrifice, alongside three of his teammates, when his convoy was ambushed by Islamic State fighters outside the village of Tongo Tongo in northwestern Niger. With his 11-man Special Forces team outnumbered nearly eight to one and “With total disregard for his personal safety or life,” Dusty “maneuvered multiple times across open terrain through intense and accurate fire from an overwhelming hostile force to protect and recover two of his fallen comrades.” For his actions that day, the Department of Defense awarded Dusty the Silver Star.
Dusty’s easy smile, laid back country boy demeanor, and disdain for wasted time made him a great Green Beret and a better friend. He was a native of Lyons, Georgia and enlisted in the army in July of 2012, earning his Green Beret in 2014. Killed in Action alongside Dusty were: Staff Sergeant Bryan Black, 35, the Team Special Forces medical sergeant. Bryan was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor for his actions that day; Staff Sergeant Jeremiah Johnson, 39, the Team Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Specialist. Jeremiah was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor for his actions that day; and Sgt. La David Johnson, 25, the Team vehicle mechanic. La David was awarded the Silver Start for his actions that day.”
“Almost twenty years ago on 9/11/01, Ronald Vauk was killed during his annual two-week reserve duty, when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the western side of the Pentagon.
Ron was born January 25, 1964, in Nampa, Idaho; the youngest of the nine children of Dorothy and Hubert (Cubby) Vauk. He attended St. Paul’s Catholic School and Nampa High School, graduating in 1982. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy, graduating with a B.S. in Political Science in 1987. After nuclear power school training, Ron served on the submarines U.S.S. Glenard P. Lipscomb and the U.S.S. Oklahoma City.
The love of Ron’s life was his devoted wife, Jennifer, whom he met while at the U.S. Naval Academy. Ron and Jennifer’s pride and joy are their children: a son, Liam, born October 14, 1997; and a daughter, Meaghan, born November 7, 2001, two months after the attack.”
“I never knew his parents…I never knew what school he went to…I never even knew what his BUD/S class was…who he was though…he was my teammate and brother in arms. His laugh and smile were so infectious. We worked up, deployed together, and were martial arts training partners. Scotty left the Navy in 2005, contracted for years, and then joined the DIA in 2017. He served admirably until a suicide bomber killed him and his fellow agency officers during an operation in Syria in January of 2019. You will be sorely missed; gone way too soon brother. Long Live the Brotherhood.”
“Blake grew up in a small town in New Hampshire – Bedford – and went on to Stonehill College, where he had a successful collegiate baseball career, graduating in 2007. It was right around then that I first met Blake on the pool deck at Hanscom AFB. We were both there to take a PST, trying to earn a slot to go to BUD/s. I honestly thought I was in good shape before I met Blake… true story. We became fast friends; both former college athletes and big fans of the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins, and Celtics. Both laser-focused on making it to the Teams, and not much else. Fast forward a year or so, and Blake and I were in Coronado getting ready to start BUD/s together in the same training class. I ended up getting medically rolled for a staph infection in my foot about three weeks into 1st phase, and I was bummed to be leaving the class and starting over from scratch. As luck would have it, Blake got medically rolled a week later due to a bad case of rhabdo during the first 12 hours of Hell Week. Sucked for him, but I had a familiar face joining me in the next class! I have a lot of good memories of Blake from that time period. Like the time he was designated driver and drove us back onto base late one night – with a buddy of ours lying down in the bed of my truck, who promptly jumped out and ran from base police. Or when we grabbed a hotel room the weekend before Hell Week to chill out and mentally prepare for the week ahead. Or the trip out to OD’s house in Palm Springs to “recover” after we made it through Hell Week. We both eventually made it through the pipeline and Blake was assigned to an east coast-based Team, while I made my way to the medic course in North Carolina. I remember speaking with him on his first work-up and him telling me how much fun he was having, and his admiration for the CQB skills of his more experienced teammates. He ended up in Afghanistan while I was still stuck in NC studying A&P and DREs! When I finished the course I bought a house sight unseen that ended up being a few doors down from Blake; we were neighbors. I don’t have any combat stories to tell about Blake, because we were at different Teams. Those are for his former teammates to cherish, a bunch of whom I got to know because of Blake. When I got shot in Afghanistan, Blake was the first one to reach out, even though he was in the middle of an absurdly stressful selection course. That was Blake though, he genuinely cared about people. He was almost too nice to be in the Teams! He was the last person I saw in Virginia Beach when I left the Navy, as I pulled out of our neighborhood in a moving truck heading back to Boston. Just a few weeks later, I woke to the horrible news that we had lost Blake in a training accident. He had made it through selection, and this was one of his first trips with his new teammates. Friends of ours from the Teams came to Boston and crashed on my couch before we made our way up to New Hampshire for the services, where his new teammates were there en masse, in uniform. Blake loved his mother Nancy, father Bill, and sister Emily immensely. As well as Jared and his many other cousins and relatives. He truly loved his girlfriend Christine, and they both loved Crossfit. Blake is deeply missed but will never be forgotten.”
“Nate enlisted in the U.S. Navy on Nov. 4, 1997 and graduated BUD/s in 1998 with class 221. After BUD/s, Nate was attached to east coast SEAL teams and deployed numerous times in support of the global war on terror. 13 years ago, Nate made the ultimate sacrifice alongside his teammate Mike Koch during combat operations in Iraq. He was a husband, father, son, brother, and friend. His legacy lives on in many of his teammates. Nate’s dedication to his country and family, big smile, and love for New England sport teams will never be forgotten.”
“On May 5th, 2017 Kyle Milliken made the ultimate sacrifice during an operation against al-Shabaab near Mogadishu, Somalia. Kyle was an unbelievable person. Nowhere close to average. He was incredibly smart, funny, and athletic with a huge personality. Beyond being a valued team guy, he was a great dad and husband. In all aspects of life he stood out. His memory will always be cherished. Our country was blessed to have Kyle.”
“On August 6th 2011, our nation sustained the greatest single loss of lives to our Special Operations Forces in American history. The U.S. Army CH-47D Chinook, call sign “Extortion 17,” was shot down by Taliban fighters south of Kabul, Afghanistan. We lost 38 beloved fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons. The men of “Extortion 17” embodied everything great about the NSW community. Let us never forget their sacrifice and honor those who gave their lives to protect the United States of America.”
Some Gave All…
This is just a small tribute to the many men and women who have given all for our nation. So, on Monday, wherever you are and however you’re celebrating Memorial Day Weekend, we ask that you please take a moment to honor all of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. It’s because of them that we enjoy the freedoms and safety we have today. However you see fit, make sure to honor these men and women on Monday, especially, but every day.