|From TCPalm tcpalm.com 08/05/12:
Widow, family keeping memory of slain Navy SEAL Aaron Vaughn alive
BY: Keona Gardner
POSTED: 3:00 AM, Aug 5, 2012
"Don't you think God can let Daddy come back for a few minutes?"
That's the simple question 2 1/2yearold Reagan Vaughn asked his mother Kimberly about
two months after his daddy's death.
Daddy is Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class Aaron C. Vaughn, who along with 37
others, was killed Aug. 6, 2011, in Afghanistan when their CH47 Chinook helicopter was shot
down by Taliban forces.
He was a member of the elite fighting unit SEAL Team Six that killed alQaida leader Osama
bin Laden. While Vaughn was not a part of bin Laden's death, he belonged to the same unit.
Posthumously, he was promoted to the rank of chief petty officer.
A year later, his widow Kimberly Vaughn, 36, talked exclusively with Scripps Treasure Coast
Newspapers at her inlaws' Stuart home about how life has changed for her family and how
she will keep Aaron's memory alive for Reagan and his sister Chamberlyn, who was only 9
weeks old when her father was killed.
Reagan knows his daddy did important work and proudly points to the display of Aaron's
medals enclosed in a frame.
"This is the Trident," he said, gesturing to the Navy Special Warfare Insignia.
His mother smiled at her son.
"I think it's really important that they realize he didn't choose to leave us, that that was just
God's timing," she said.
Kimberly Vaughn was at her parents' house in Burke, Va., to recuperate after Chamberlyn's
birth when television news began reporting about a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
She received a call from Aaron's mom Karen Vaughn in Stuart, asking if she'd seen the news
and wanting to know if she had heard anything more about the crash. That morning she
looked at the computer and saw Aaron earlier had logged on to Skype and she thought
everything was OK.
Then the doorbell rang.
Her father, a 20year Navy veteran, opened the door and she saw two men in uniform.
She dropped to her knees and fat drops of tears rolled down her face.
At once came a parade of Navy uniforms: two death notification officers, a casualty assistance
officer, a psychologist, a chaplain and military friends.
Her father led her to the couch, where she was told the news.
"They kind of wait until you're composed, so you know they are not there to tell you, 'Hey,
he's been hurt,'" she said.
Nearly a year later, her voice broke, tears spilled down her cheeks, as she told the story.
"There had been a helicopter crash. And Aaron was on board," she said.
"And there were no survivors."
The couple's forever lasted only three years.
Rank: Chief Petty Officer
Medals: Bronze Star Medal with Valor, Purple Heart, Defense Meritorious Service Medal,
Global War on Terrorism (Expeditionary) Medal, Global War on Terrorism (Service) Medal,
Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Good Conduct
Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Valor, Joint Service Achievement
Medal with Valor
Local connection: Attended Martin County High School
Degree: Associate degree in golf course management from Indian River Community
CollegeMotion picture: Vaughn played a SEAL in the movie "The Act of Valor" about Navy
SEALs on a mission to rescue a kidnapped CIA agent. It was released Feb. 24 and is available
on DVD and Bluray disc.
Meanwhile in Stuart, Aaron's parents were getting the same news.
"God you have taken my son. Blessed be the name of the Lord," Billy Vaughn recalled saying
after learning of his only son's death. "God knew the day that he gave us that little boy ... God
gave us that gift for 30 years."
The day before, Kimberly had what was to be her last conversation with her husband. It was a
casual fiveminute phone call while she was in her car. She thinks the conversation took place
while Aaron was preparing for that fatal helicopter mission.
"Hi. How's it going?" she asked.
"Oh, it's busy," Aaron replied.
Busy meant good in SEAL speak.
"Daddy can we play helicopters?" Reagan piped in, asking about the remote control
helicopters the two often would play with.
"I will when I get back," Aaron answered.
THE CHEERLEADER AND THE SEAL
The couple's romance started in 2005 during a USO trip. Kimberly Vaughn, then a
Washington Redskins cheerleader, was in Guam to entertain the troops. Aaron was stationed
The night before her performance, their paths crossed while they were each hanging out with
friends. Kimberly spotted the chiseled, 6foot 4inch SEAL across the room. She approached
him and struck up a conversation.
She gave him tickets to the USO show, which he attended. After her performance they talked.
Not only about the usual stuff of family, friends, likes and dislikes, but also about Jesus Christ,
Bible scriptures and the importance of raising children in a Christian home.
Aaron didn't say, "Praise the Lord," but would grab his guitar and sing a song. If he knew a
friend needed help repairing his truck, he wouldn't ask to help. He would just show up with his
tools ready to work, she said.
The courtship started with emails, then phone calls followed by visits — sometimes she flew to
San Diego where he was based or he went to Washington where she lived.
They were engaged New Year's Eve 2007 and married in May 2008. The newlyweds made
their home in San Diego before relocating to the D.C. area so Kimberly would be close to her
family when Aaron was deployed.
A year later their first child, a son, Reagan, was born. Aaron took him fishing, watched dirt
bike racing and played remote control helicopters with him.
Then in 2011, a daughter, Chamberlyn, was born. Aaron was there for her birth, but he was
preparing for the Afghanistan mission. After training, he would place his newborn daughter on
his chest and watch her sleep.
"He was so proud to have a daughter," Kimberly Vaughn said.
The father and baby girl had only two weeks to bond.
MEANT TO BE A SEAL
Aaron Vaughn didn't pick the Navy, he picked the SEALs, his father Billy Vaughn said.
Aaron grew up in Union City, Tenn., in the northwest part of the state near the Kentucky
border. It was there while mending farm fences with his dad that talk turned to the military.
Aaron said he wanted to be an Army Ranger.
"I said, 'You know son, there is one group that is slightly above the Rangers. It's the Navy
SEALs,'" Billy Vaughn said.
From then on, Aaron knew he wanted to be a SEAL.
For his senior year of high school, he relocated to Stuart to join his parents who had moved
here a year earlier for their landscaping business, his mom Karen Vaughn said.
Aaron joined the Martin County High School football team where he was a wide receiver and
defensive end. His dreams of being a SEAL appeared to die when he tore his anterior cruciate
ligament in his knee during a practice the day before his first game.
That injury should have kept him out of the military, let alone the grueling pace of SEAL
training, Billy Vaughn said.
"He couldn't play amateur sports without a knee brace," Billy Vaughn said. "It was his dream
to be a SEAL."
The Vaughns still don't know why, but somehow the Navy didn't discover Aaron's injury until
after he qualified for Navy SEAL Team Six.
"I guess they figured if he could do the work and had been in for so long, he should stay," Billy
Perhaps, he was meant to be a SEAL.
Much of what Aaron Vaughn did as a SEAL remains classified. He was proud of his work, but
he would never boast about being a SEAL, his father said. The success of his missions required
no one ever knowing about them.
"Only in his death are we able to celebrate who he was in life," Karen Vaughn said. "Aaron
died doing what he loved."
The Department of Defense estimates the War on Terror has created more than 3,000
widows and widowers. The day Vaughn died has been called one of the deadliest days for
Navy special forces in Afghanistan.
"The night that helicopter crashed, 40 kids were left fatherless," Billy Vaughn said.
LIFE GOES ON
Kimberly Vaughn has returned to the job she's had for 15 years as a computer consultant and
ended her plans of being a stayathome mom.
"A good day for me is when I think about Aaron and smile a lot more than I cry," she said.
Eight months before Aaron's death, he and Kimberly purchased an acre lot in Virginia Beach
where they began building their dream house. Six months after his death, Kimberly and the
kids moved into the fivebedroom, fourbathroom house.
It was a bittersweet moment knowing that the man she planned to spend a lifetime with
would never see it. But it also helped with the grieving process because there are no ghosts of
her husband at the new house.
"I don't have to picture him sitting at our breakfast table drinking coffee," Kimberly Vaughn
said. "Or say, 'There's the wall he would stand and lean against.' The things that bring a smile
to your face would also bring you to your knees."
Things like Reagan mentioning his Daddy in his bedtime prayers. Or celebrating Chamberlyn's
first birthday on June 3.
On June 24, on what would have been Aaron's 31st birthday, Kimberly mentioned the day to
"Can Daddy come back to have cake?" Reagan asked.
Then there was Memorial Day.
The family wasn't expecting to feel the loss as strongly as they did.
Normally, the family would spend the day in the backyard having a barbecue, eating apple pie
and drinking soda. This year Billy and Karen Vaughn stayed in bed.
"It just smacked us in the head that day," Billy Vaughn said.
Karen Vaughn said she used to picture images of fallen World War II or Vietnam War soldiers
on Memorial Day, not those of her only son.
"For the first time, the day was about memorializing loss. Our loss," she said.
Because of Aaron's constant deployments, Kimberly Vaughn said she is used to being a single
"It's hard when it's the time that he's supposed to come home. I'll look for him," she said, her
voice cracking with grief. "And he's not there."
Kimberly Vaughn said she is comforted in knowing Aaron trusted her to take care of their
children. Months before he died, he sent her an email thanking her for holding down the fort at
"Hey, thanks for taking care of the kids without me. I love you," Aaron Vaughn wrote.
|Fallen SEAL remembered as 'tough warrior, gentle man'
The Associated Press
Elite Navy SEALs member Aaron Carson Vaughn had asked the military to return him to combat and shipped out just six weeks before he was killed.
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.