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Secret heroes who can never be publicly honored

By JULIE WATSON
May 5, 2011

Navy SEALS in training exercise (AFP)

Patrons in bars across the country are raising toasts in the air, hoping the gesture of gratitude would somehow reach the clandestine Navy SEAL team that took down Osama bin Laden. Millions of others are turning to social networks with their thoughts.

For many of them, it feels frustratingly incomplete to be deprived the chance to see the faces of those they consider heroes for killing the world’s most-wanted terrorist.

Scores of people responded to the question posed by The Associated Press on its Facebook page: “What would you tell the Navy SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden if you could convey a message?”

“I don’t know what is more impressive — that you did this with such excellence and secrecy, or that this was just another day at the office,” Pamela Jardieu-Aderman responded. “Thank you to all of the SEALS for a lifetime of sharp swords and full hearts… you guys make America extremely proud, even though we never get to tell you to your faces.”

The 40-year-old freelance grant writer and photographer from Utica, N.Y., said in a follow-up e-mail to the AP that she is glad the SEALs’ identities are not being revealed to protect them, but she wishes there was some way the nation could show its gratitude on a large-scale. She suggested a tribute in the form of a White House electronic bulletin board for messages, or a national day of volunteerism, or a ceremony for the SEALs.

Chicago alderman James Balcer, a Marines veteran, said he would like the city to hold a ticker-tape parade for the unit.

Obama planned to visit New York City’s ground zero on Thursday and meet privately with family members of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks at the hands of bin Laden’s al-Qaida organization.

Jardieu-Aderman said she and her husband donated to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in honor of the elite group that raided the compound Sunday in Pakistan. The Virginia-based Navy SEAL Foundation, which helps the families of SEALs, says their donations have surged dramatically since the news of the raid.

Nick Flener, 26, a veterinarian in Buena Park, Calif., said he was skeptical, and that the government’s limited information was only feeding suspicions.

“First I would like to know their names and find out why such a historic event is shrouded in so much secrecy,” Flener told the AP in an e-mail.

Gauging how much to tell is a challenge as military special operation groups increasingly work side-by-side with the intelligence community, as the SEALs and the CIA did Sunday. Such covert operation groups are being relied upon more to go after terrorists, and any publicized details of their investigations could make their jobs harder, officials say.

But touting their success also has benefits: A U.S. House committee on Wednesday approved $10.5 billion for Special Operations Command, which oversees the Navy SEALs unit in the bin Laden mission. The amount represents a 7 percent increase from current levels.

That elite SEAL unit is known as Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or “DEVGRU.” It is made up of a few hundred personnel, and revealing their names would make them a target, Navy officials say. The SEALs are now resting at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, D.C., and will likely be honored privately.

In Virginia Beach, Va., where the team is based, the mayor wanted to throw a parade. City spokeswoman Mary Hancock said the Navy told them that it appreciated the offer but the secretive force — who call themselves “the quiet professionals” — would rather avoid the attention.

That’s understood by those who live in Virginia Beach, many of whom served in the military or know someone who does. Neighboring Norfolk is home to the world’s largest Naval base.

“These guys are local boys, and I’m sure that they won’t ever take credit for it, being the type of people that they are,” said Michael Doyle, a 39-year-old former operations specialist aboard the USS Mount Whitney. “But it makes you proud to be an American — that’s for sure.”

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Associated Press Brock Vergakis contributed to this report from Virginia Beach, Va.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press

2 Responses to Secret heroes who can never be publicly honored

  1. Sandune

    May 5, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Sadly, a large number of Americans are not taking this action seriously. they are laughing at the stupidity of the American people who believe anything done earlier in the week was the truth.

    The photos have been labeled “false” just as the birth certificate is a “forgery.” Why is this the case especially with those who live on the internet and get their news from a source so anti Obama to be anti-American.

    Is all of this stuff based on race? What else has caused all this dissention to come spewing from so many Americans? How guilty are the Christian ministers for scaring the hell out of their followers based on the hatred of Islam? This movement cannot continue in America.

    It is more than just an election….It is an awakening of some evil message coming from somewhere. I want to cheer our Seal heroes here and on the street. I doesn’t matter if we know them personally, we know them patriotically.

  2. Jim0001

    May 6, 2011 at 9:57 am

    A military sniper (not USA) made one of the longest confirmed shots on record (1600+ meters) and received much publicity. The enemy knows is name and who is family is. His effectiveness has been diminished as a military sniper. He and his family are under protection. This is but one example of why covert operators choose to remain anynomous. Their careers and possibly their lives and those of their families are over should they become public figures. Figuratively speaking, A beer in the Rose Garden is NOT a good thing! It is merely a publicity stunt for a self-consumed politician.
    Special Operations operators have classified 201 files for a reason, They operate in the shadows and can only remain effective operating from the shadows.
    Incidentally, the “Quiet Professionals” term was coined and is used by Army Special Forces (AKA their media name of “Green Berets”) but Ms. Hancock must assume since all are under the command of JSOC it is used also by the Navy SEALS.
    All who participated in getting OBL (Navy Seals, Army Delta, Air Force personnel, CIA and the hundreds who support them) are to be commended and applauded under the shroud of secrecy. Remember while passing out thanks it takes about 4 support personnel per 1 infantry soldier. Higher in the SO community.