One year ago today, a group of Marines, U.S. soldiers and Afghan security forces were pinned down in a kill zone near Ganjgal, Afghanistan, a remote village in the unforgiving, mountainous terrain of Kunar province.
At this point, the basic details of what occurred that day are well known. Repeatedly denied air support and artillery by officers at a nearby forward operating base, they were left to fend for themselves against more than 100 well-entrenched insurgent fighters.
Three Marines and a Navy corpsman were killed on the battlefield, and a U.S. soldier died Oct. 7, 2009, from medical complications that stemmed from him sustaining a neck wound in the battle. An already-wounded Marine corporal, Dakota Meyer, charged into the kill zone to retrieve the bodies of his four buddies, causing some to speculate he deserves consideration for the Medal of Honor.
This blog post isn’t about what happened or who could have prevented it, though. No, this post is about those lost, and the proud, grieving families they left behind.
Over the last year, I’ve grown a friendship with and immense respect for several of those families as I’ve covered what occurred for Marine Corps Times. They’ve done everything they can to find positives in their losses. Many of them plan to meet this weekend in Williamsville, N.Y., to mourn together in person for the first time, and I’m honored to say they’ve asked me to attend. At their request, I’m doing so. If they want me there, it’s the least I can do.
Again, a respectful salute to the following:
- 1st Lt. Michael Johnson, killed in action, Sept. 8, 2009
- Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Johnson, KIA, Sept 8, 2009
- Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, KIA, Sept. 8, 2009
- Hospitalman 3rd Class James Layton, KIA, Sept. 8, 2009
- Army Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Westbrook, who died Oct. 7 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington
I’d like to close with a message from Charlene Westbrook, Ken’s wife. She posted the following to Facebook this morning, and asked that it be shared:
A year ago today Ken was wounded in an ambush in Afghanistan on September 8, 2009. For the next month after we went through so much pain and heartache with his declining health at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. It was an experience I will never forget and something I do not wish any military family to go through. So from today on and up to the anniversary of his death, October 7 I would like you all to invite your friends to join his remembrance page to honor his life. To say thank you to a career soldier who loved his family and country. To let us know he will never be forgotten…