By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Felicito Rustique
Rear Adm. Keith B. Davids, commander, Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC) delivered keynote remarks during the Coronado Memorial Day Service at Coronado Star Park, May 29.
Coronado’s hour-long event brought approximately 500 – 700 guests together to honor those who died while serving in the U.S. military. Davids specifically addressed Gold Star families and spoke about the August 6, 2011 tragedy “Extortion 17.”
On that day, Taliban fighters in Afghanistan shot down a CH-74 Chinook helicopter, call sign Extortion 17. 38 souls and a U.S. military working dog onboard perished. The dead included 25 American special operations personnel, five U.S. Army National Guard and Army Reserve crewmen, seven Afghan commandos and one Afghan interpreter. Among the 25 American special operations personnel who died, 17 were Navy SEALs.
“When we experienced the downing of Extortion 17, the greatest loss in Naval Special Warfare history and the single deadliest incident of the U.S. War in Afghanistan, Coronado shared in our grief,” said Davids. “As we remember our teammates whose sacrifices and acts of heroism on the battlefield serve as examples of uncompromising commitment and courage, we will never forget the patriotism, incredible care and concern of our Coronado friends and neighbors.”
In addition to Davids’ remarks, the service included a 21-gun rifle salute, the playing of Taps, the singing of God Bless America by Ms. Julia Price, a reading from the Bible by retired U.S. Navy Capt. John Nolan, and a proclamation by Coronado Mayor, the Honorable Richard Bailey.
Additionally, there were several presentations of tribute to the fallen from attending organizations and families. The family of fallen U.S. Navy SEAL, Chief Special Warfare Operator Charles Keating IV honored his service and sacrifice, while six Naval Special Warfare distinguished guests paid their respects to all fallen Navy frogmen and SEALs by placing their tributes on a platform beneath the flagpole.
Keating, a Phoenix, Arizona native, was killed in action May 3, 2016, in Iraq when over 300 ISIS fighters advanced on his SEAL team. Keating and his team held off the enemy for more than four hours, allowing a Peshmerga partner force to counterattack. Keating, however, made the ultimate sacrifice.
“If not for the actions of Charlie’s team, this attack would have been catastrophic,” said Marvin Heinze, master of ceremony for the event and member of the local Veteran of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 22 organization. “Charles Keating fought fearlessly. He will never be forgotten.”
Davids also emphasized the importance of unity in addressing veteran suicide.
“While many service members survive war free of physical harm, some suffer emotional wounds that cannot be physically seen,” said Davids. “Sadly, the tragic reality of veteran suicide remains a heartbreaking consequence of these invisible wounds. Therefore, it is our collective responsibility to ensure that our veterans receive the support, resources, and understanding they need to heal, reintegrate, and thrive in their lives.”
Coronado’s Memorial Day Committee and Memorial Service is organized by the VFW Post 22, the Silver Strand Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America, the Council of the Navy League, and the Coronado detachment of the Marine Corps League.
Naval Special Warfare is the nation’s elite maritime special operations force, uniquely positioned to extend the Fleet’s reach and gain and maintain access for the Joint Force in competition and conflict.