|Fallen Navy SEAL’s parents carrying out son’s ‘mission’ |
|Posted: Thursday, April 26, 2012 9:29 pm |
| By CHRIS MENEES |
As an elite Navy SEAL, Aaron Vaughn was a man on a mission.
As his parents, Karen and Billy Vaughn Jr. are on a mission to carry their late son’s message.
Aaron Vaughn, a 30-year-old Obion County native, was one of 30 U.S. servicemen who died Aug. 6, 2011, when a rocket-propelled grenade fired by a Taliban insurgent downed their helicopter in Afghanistan.
He had graduated from Obion County Central High School in 1999 and enlisted in the U.S. Navy on his 21st birthday, a few months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Living his childhood dream, he became a highly-trained and highly-decorated elite Navy SEAL (Sea, Air and Land).
In the months since his death, Billy and Karen Vaughn have made themselves available to speak publicly across the United States and have launched a website — www.forourson.us — as they carry their son’s cause.
They are in Obion County through Tuesday for speaking engagements in the area.
Doors have opened for the Vaughns to carry their son’s message through several different avenues, from churches and schools to political rallies and Tea Party events. But both father and mother always open with the same thing — Aaron’s story.
“We wouldn’t have a message if it hadn’t been for Aaron,” said Vaughn, a 1975 graduate of OCCHS.
They talk about what their son believed in and what he stood for.
“I usually have opportunity to talk about Islam, and I knew Aaron’s views on that very well and that’s who he was fighting,” Vaughn said. “We can call it whatever we want to; we’re involved in a religious war. You don’t have to be religious … but they’re religious, and they’re fighting you over their religion slash government.”
In certain venues, Vaughn talks about “what is happening to our republic,” including what his son believed in and “what he died for.”
“The shape it’s in with the government that we have on both sides, not just the Democrats — neither side is doing a good job,” he said. “They’re not protecting the people, they’re not defending the citizens and they’re not informing the citizens about the threats that are around us.”
The Vaughns have been guests on several national radio programs in recent months.
“We kind of just go where the Lord seems to provide an opportunity, and don’t really know where it is going or where we’re going,” he said.
Mrs. Vaughn said she feels like she has been called into two different ministries, which she characterizes as “kind of similar, but not exactly the same thing.”
She is passionate about speaking in high schools because she loves teenagers and worked in church youth ministry for about 18 years. She graduated from Union City High School in 1980.
“I try to tell students, (Aaron) was no different than any of you,” she said, explaining she also begins by talking about what was happening in Afghanistan the day her son died.
“When that chopper crashed, it marked the largest loss of life in the 10-year war against radical Jihad and it also marked the largest loss of life in the history of Naval Special Warfare. It’s made a big impact on our country,” Mrs. Vaughn said.
“I talk about a man, Aaron; I talk about a mission, Extortion 17, where he was killed; and then I talk about a legacy and I tell them the things I believe Aaron would tell them if he was here today,” she said. “We raised him constantly having conversations about what was going on in the world, about what bothered us, what troubled us, what we thought was wrong with what was happening, what we thought was right.”
She encourages students to become civic-minded, to stay informed and to register to vote as soon as they are eligible, adding, “A lot of good people have died to give them that right.”
“I talk a lot about what our founding fathers believed in, that Aaron believed in the same principles, and that we need America to return to those principles if America is going to sustain itself. And it depends on the people, not the government,” she said.
In church venues, Mrs. Vaughn focuses on “God’s provision and being able to trust the character of God.”
“And if you believe in the character of God, Satan cannot slice holes in your life raft and you’ll be alright if you trust His character,” she said.
“In public, we are able to do what God’s asked us to do. At home, we hurt,” she said. “We’re hurting. It’s only been 81⁄2 months and it’s the most traumatic thing we’ve ever been through. But we both feel really compelled to honor Aaron’s life and his sacrifice by taking on these roles we’ve been called to take on.”
When their son was alive, the Vaughns could talk little about his covert work; but with his death, that changed.
“We’re free to talk about it. People are interested in it,” Mrs. Vaughn said. “They listen to us because of Aaron. He’s earned this platform. All these views that Aaron had — he wasn’t able to share them publicly because of his job. He didn’t have the freedom to speak off the cuff about things like this, but because he is gone, we can speak on his behalf and it really has opened up a liberty for his views and his strong passionate feelings about his country to be released.”
The Vaughns maintain a close relationship with their son’s widow, Kimberly Vaughn of Virginia Beach, Va., the mother of grandchildren Reagan and Chamberlyn. Kimberly appeared on CNN just a couple of days ago.
“I think it’s made the journey easier for all of us because we’ve all decided to stay a family and it’s been really important,” Mrs. Vaughn said. “And I do think that God put Aaron as the face of the (loss) somehow. I believe He used him because Aaron loved God and he honored God with his life.”
In February, the Vaughns had the opportunity to visit Israel with The United West after an encounter with its president, Tom Trento, who has traveled extensively exposing Islamic violence and infiltration. Initially, just Vaughn was invited to go, with all his expenses covered; then Mrs. Vaughn was invited and was hurriedly able to raise the funds to cover her expenses.
Vaughn said they saw the Holy Land and “more that people don’t get to see, where tourists don’t go.”
“We stood at the edge of the Gaza Strip on Friday and, on Saturday, eight rockets were fired right over the place we stood,” Mrs. Vaughn said. “And then about two weeks after we got back, they started an assault against Israel out of Gaza and were bombing cities that we visited.
“We found out that Israelis are prisoners in their own country,” she added.
In Israel, the Vaughns met pastor Umar Mulinde, a converted Muslim who has built a huge Christian church in Uganda and whose family has disowned him.
“On Christmas Eve, 300 Muslims came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and, that night, (Mulinde’s) reward for it was two Muslim terrorists threw acid on his face,” Mrs. Vaughn said.
They met Mulinde in a hospital in Israel, where he was taken for treatment because he could not get treatment in his own country, according to Mrs. Vaughn.
“He’s an amazing man of God,” she said.
The Vaughns also witnessed a terrorist attack on the Mount of Olives, where Palestinians attacked two elderly Jewish men by stoning them. Vaughn said the men were covered in blood “while we’re standing on the Mount of Olives looking over the holy city.”
In showing the difference between Israelis and Palestinians, the Vaughns related the story of a Palestinian girl who was treated for free at an Israel hospital for severe burns on her upper body. As the girl was returning to Israel through a border crossing en route for more treatment, she unsuccessfully tried to detonate herself.
“She had come to the hospital that had saved her life to blow it up,” Mrs. Vaughn said, showing actual Israeli police video of the incident. “It’s unbelievable what’s going on over there.
“Our trip to Israel was life-changing,” she added.
Quest for answers
As they travel with their son’s message, the Vaughns are also still seeking answers in their son’s death.
Vaughn said the night of the crash in Afghanistan, his son’s SEAL Team 6 members — “the most elite in the world” — were being flown by a regular CH-47 Chinook chopper rather than its usual special operations helicopter equipped for night flying and piloted by Night Stalker pilots.
He said he has been told the reason for the change was “because (President) Obama has stepped up the special ops so much that the military told us in the debriefing, ‘We don’t have enough helicopters to fly the special operators in, so we’re basically having to use what we’ve got.’”
He also has questions about our country’s rules of engagement for its military, which he said are in the president’s control and affect “the way our warriors are being done and not allowed to fight.” He said the rules are “criminal” and he said Obama is also slashing America’s conventional military.
“It’s President Obama — he’s demoralizing our country and he’s doing the same to the military right now,” Vaughn said.
Vaughn said he has contacted “congressman after congressman” in the aftermath of his son’s death as he continues the quest for answers. Florida Congressman Allen West is essentially the only congressman who hasn’t given up.
The Vaughns are studying maps, charts and even dialogue from the night of their son’s crash and have encountered many portions of reports which are redacted and kept from public view.
“It’s actually raising more questions,” Vaughn said.
There has been talk of the possibility of a conspiracy since the Navy SEALs killed in the crash were from the same special forces team that pulled off the remarkable mission that killed terrorist Osama bin Laden on May 1, 2011.
Vaughn said his son’s squad was involved in the bin Laden operation, but Aaron wasn’t on that particular operation. He said in the aftermath, their son called and instructed them to remove any information about him or his family from the Internet “because the White House had put out the information about who it was” in the operation and there were concerns about the safety of the SEALs and their families.
“This is in direct correlation with the White House and what (Vice President) Joe Biden said. He put a target on SEAL Team 6’s backs,” Vaughn said.
“And their families’ backs,” Mrs. Vaughn added.
“And then 90 days later, the biggest loss ever in SEAL Team 6’s history … It happened to be the very same team,” Vaughn said.
The Vaughns said they are aware of the conspiracy theories but don’t have any proof and don’t want to lose their credibility. Mrs. Vaughn said they will seek answers “in a sane way.”
“The White House was negligent and reckless in the way that they talked about SEAL Team 6. … And then they still are today, using that SEAL team to help him get elected,” Vaughn claimed.
“We will not allow Barack Obama to ride our son’s death to his next election,” Mrs. Vaughn said. “We will fight tooth and nail to keep that man from riding his back to his next election. He is anti-military. There is nothing about him that is pro what my son believed in. They have none of the same values about this country and I will not allow him — with my last breath, I will not allow him — to ride my son’s death to the White House again.
“And we’re going to engage ourselves in this political season. From now ’til November, we are engaged.”
Mrs. Vaughn said her husband recently shared a profound insight, a variation of something he heard and put into his own words.
“He said of the four terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the government couldn’t stop any of them, but one was stopped, and who was it stopped by? The people on Flight 93,” she related.
“Big government couldn’t stop them, but American citizens did,” Vaughn added.
“They did what they had to do to stop it and that’s what we’re doing,” Mrs. Vaughn said.
Journey of faith
The Vaughns’ lives have been a whirlwind of activity in the months since their son’s death and Mrs. Vaughn is confident God has been directing their path and placing them in contact with just the right people.
The couple recently opened a non-profit, tax-exempt donation area on their website, www.forour son.us, which allows people to make donations to help with their travel expenses for speaking engagements and the time they take away from their jobs.
They have also used social media as a way to promote other causes that benefit the nation’s soldiers and other people who are speaking out. Just this week, Mrs. Vaughn posted a Facebook link to author Eric Blehm’s book “Fearless,” which tells of the sacrifice of SEAL Team 6 member Adam Brown. Several of the men interviewed for the book were among those who died in the August helicopter crash.
Vaughn, too, said he has no doubt God is in control and is directing the steps of the journey he and his wife have undertaken.
“When Aaron was a baby, the Lord knew how it would end up, but if we’d have known … I’d have never enjoyed the gift,” he said. “I don’t know how, but it’s been during this time since Aaron’s been gone — in fact, it was that day, the day of the crash — I can’t explain it, but I just all of a sudden understood who the Lord was more than I ever had in my life.”
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by email at email@example.com. Published in The Messenger 4.26.12