Two SEALs killed in Afghanistan firefight awarded Navy Cross
ARLINGTON, Va. — Two Navy SEALs who fought on after their reinforcements were killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, allowing a member of their team to get away from the Taliban will be posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, the Navy announced Thursday.
Sonar Technician 2nd Class Matthew Axelson and Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Danny Dietz were killed June 28, 2005, near Asadabad, Afghanistan.
The two SEALs were part of a team looking for a senior Taliban leader when they were attacked by a much larger force of Taliban fighters, according to a Navy news release.
The team called for backup, but an MH-47 Chinook carrying reinforcements was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and crashed, killing all 16 men aboard including eight SEALs, officials said.
With no help coming, the SEALs on the ground continued to fight the Taliban, according to the news release.
“Although mortally wounded, Axelson and Dietz held their position and fought for the safety of their teammates despite a hail of gunfire. Their actions cost them their lives, but gave one of the other SEALs an opportunity to escape. He was able to evade the enemy and was recovered by American forces a few days later,” the news release says.
The two men’s families will receive the awards at a Sept. 13 ceremony in Washington.
Of the 20 Navy Crosses awarded since the beginning of the war on terrorism, five have gone to SEALs, including most recently, Petty Officer 2nd Class Marc Lee, who was killed in an Aug. 2 firefight in Ramadi, Iraq, officials said.
Lee is the only SEAL to have been killed in Iraq, whereas 16 SEALs have been killed in Afghanistan since the global war on terrorism began, said Cmdr. Greg Geisen, a spokesman for the SEALs.
There are currently about 2,300 Navy SEALs, Geisen said.