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September Saturday in God's Country

Axelson and Dietz to receive Navy Cross


A year after the largest combat loss for Naval Special Warfare since D-Day, two members of the SR element that battled an estimated 50-100 taliban near Asadabad, Afghanistan will posthumously receive the nation's second highest award for valor.  On September 13, 2006, the families of PO2 Matthew Axelson and PO2 Danny Dietz will be presented the Navy Cross in a ceremony at the US Navy memorial in Washington DC. 

Dan Dietz, father of PO2 Dietz:

"He was tremendously brave, and he stuck around for his buddies," said Danny's father, Dan Dietz, of Littleton. "He was fighting all the time through this. I'm very proud that I'm his father. And I miss him tremendously."...  And when he holds the medal, he said, "It will remind me of his dedication, his strength, and his loyalty. And his just . . . just his sheer guts."

Corky Axelson, father of PO2 Axelson:

"We are proud of our son if he didn't get any of these medals, but this is special."

Jeff Axelson, PO2 Axelson's brother:

"Yeah, I looked up to him even though he is a little brother."

Having been compromised during their recon, Axelson, Dietz, Lt. Michael Murphy, and the One were engaged by a numerically superior force of taliban from the mountainside above.  After calling for a Quick Reaction Force to aid them in their extraction, the SR team fought the enemy for at least an hour.  Upon the arrival of the QRF, one of the MH-47 helos was struck by an RPG and crashed, killing eight SEALs and eight Army Nightstalkers.  The SR team fought on and Axelson, Dietz, and Murphy all gave their lives with only one survivor-who was also awarded the Navy Cross-escaping.  The One evaded the enemy for another day or more having suffered numerous wounds and was taken in by some nearby friendly villagers.  After watching taliban barter for his life on several occasions, the villagers helped to smuggle the One out of the village where he linked up with an Army Ranger patrol at which point he took the Ranger radio and called in a series of devastating airstrikes on taliban positions which had engaged them. 

I recently met the One and his brother at the Marc Lee memorial service in Coronado.  The One's father is a frequent commenter here at B5 named Pops, so if you see him in the comments be sure and show him the proper respect.  Rumor has it that Lt. Murphy is under consideration for the Congressional Medal of Honor.  All three SR team KIAs received the Silver Star initially, and since Murphy was not upgraded to the Navy Cross, it seems likely that he will be getting the CMH posthumously at some point.  It is pretty much accepted in the SEAL community that the One is entitled to the CMH, but the requirement that the acts of valor be witnessed personally excludes him since he was the mission's sole survivor.