Extortion 17 – In Honor of Aaron Carson Vaughn USN (1981- 2011) – Plum City Dedication – “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet “
On 6 August 2011, a U.S. Boeing CH-47 Chinook military helicopter, call sign Extortion 17, was shot down while transporting a quick reaction force attempting to reinforce an engaged unit of Army Rangers in Wardak province, west of Kabul, Afghanistan. The resulting crash killed all 38 people on board – 25 American special operations personnel, five United States Army National Guard and Army Reserve crewmen, seven Afghan commandos, and one Afghan interpreter – as well as a U.S. military working dog. It is considered the worst loss of U.S Military life in a single incident in the Afghanistan campaign, surpassing Operation Red Wings in 2005.
Vaughn’s grandmother, Geneva Vaughn of Union City, Tenn., told The Associated Press that her grandson, a Tennessee native, had wanted to be a SEAL since he was a child and returned to combat just two weeks after his 2-month-old daughter was born this summer.
“Aaron was a Christian and he’s with Jesus today,” Vaughn said. “He told us when we saw him last November that he wasn’t afraid because he knew where he was going, and he said, ‘Granny, don’t worry about me.’
“He was a tough warrior, but he was a gentle man.”
Vaughn, 30, of Stuart, Fla., leaves behind his wife, Kimberly, and two children, 2-year-old son Reagan and 2-month-old daughter Chamberlyn. Vaughn had been based in Virginia Beach, Va., and had also seen postings in Coronado, Calif., Guam, Germany, Iraq and Afghanistan, his grandmother said.
Aaron Vaughn enlisted in November 2002, according to the Navy, and he joined the SEALs straight out of boot camp. He completed Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL School, Coronado, Calif., in April 2004. Vaughn served in a West Coast based special warfare unit from November 2004 to June 2008, then moved to the East Coast-based SEAL team in June 2008.
Vaughn was already a decorated fighter when he was asked by the Navy to return stateside to become an instructor, his grandmother said. But he chafed under the assignment and applied to SEAL Team Six after two years, earning his way onto the squad in 2010. Geneva Vaughn said he was one of the few SEALs who performed well enough to get his name on the “First Time Every Time Wall,” a benchmark of honor for the few SEALs who pass every test on their first try.
“The last time he was in Afghanistan he received a medal because his team was under fire and couldn’t see the enemy. He left the ones he was with and drew fire and killed the enemy to save the men he was with. We couldn’t tell any of this stuff when he was alive because it was a secret,” Geneva Vaughn said.
Vaughn met his wife, Kimberly, while she was on a USO tour entertaining troops in Guam as a Washington Redskins cheerleader. They married about four years ago.
“Aaron’s hard to miss – 6-feet-4, beautiful guy,” Kimberly told WTTG-TV in Washington from her parents’ home in Burke, Va., where she was when she learned her husband was one of the troops killed in the helicopter crash.
Kimberly said she talked with her husband about the dangers inherent in his job, but she usually tried to put it out of her mind.
“You could sit there and worry yourself to pieces, thinking that they’re constantly going to get hurt,” Kimberly said. Aaron believed that “his time, if it were to come early, that it was meant to be. Aaron wouldn’t have wanted to leave this earth any other way than the way he did, and that’s laying down his life serving his country.”
Aaron Vaughn grew up in rural Obion County outside of Union City in northwestern Tennessee and briefly moved with his parents to Stuart as a teen. He returned to Obion County to finish his senior year of high school, then attended two years of college before joining the Navy.
“He was doing what he loved to do and he was a true warrior,” Geneva Vaughn said.
Vaughn’s decorations include the Purple Heart; Defense Meritorious Service Medal Joint Service Commendation Medal with ‘V’ for valor; two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and one with ‘V’ for valor; Presidential Unit Citation; two Navy Good Conduct Medals; National Defense Service Medal; Afghanistan Campaign Medal; Iraq Campaign Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; two Sea Service Deployment Ribbons; Navy Expert Rifleman Medal and Navy Expert Pistol Shot Medal.