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Monday, May 2, 2011

U.S. vets, families celebrate the death of bin Laden

By PHIL WILLON and TONY PERRY

LOS ANGELES – Del Warren of Long Beach, Calif., got the news in a text message and immediately began to tear up.

Osama bin Laden was dead, said the text from the widow of Warren’s son Kyle, who was killed by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan.

“It’s fabulous,” Warren said Sunday night, glued to the television set.

President Obama’s announcement that U.S. forces had killed the 9/11 mastermind in Pakistan brought a sense of closure for soldiers as well as families of who lost soldiers in the war in Afghanistan.

They celebrated the news but remembered the loved ones and fellow soldiers lost in the war on terror.

Warren and other members of his Special Forces unit had just finished meeting with town elders when they were attacked by small-arms fire. He was on an all-terrain vehicle when he was hit by the explosive, his father said.

“That’s the reason my son was over there. This is just huge.” His son, a 28-year-old staff sergeant and Special Forces medic, was killed on July 29.

A Marine lieutenant who lost a leg in Afghanistan called death of bin Laden “a victory for every guy who has served there, and particularly for the guys who never came home.”

But Cameron West, 25, part of the battle-scarred Camp Pendleton-based 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment, warned that “he’s just one man.”

“There are a lot more we’ve got to kill: we’ve got to destroy the whole insurgency,” he said. “Bin Laden was the head of the snake, but this snake has a lot of heads, and we’ve got to kill them all before it’s an ultimate victory.”

The regiment suffered 25 dead and more than 200 wounded while fighting for control of the Sangin district, long a Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan. For the Marines recuperating in hospitals throughout the U.S., the death of bin Laden “is going to be a great morale booster,” West said.

West lost a leg in a firefight in which another Marine was killed early in the regiment’s deployment. He is now recuperating in Oceanside, Calif., and receiving therapy at the Naval Medical Center San Diego.

Army Sgt. Kenny Gordon was listening to music a Stagecoach Country Music Festival in Indio, Calif., when he heard about bin Laden’s death. Having just served for seven months in Afghanistan, he said, “It’s a good thing. He did a lot of damage to a lot of people.”

“I’m going to be partying a lot harder than I would have, because we got him. I’m stoked,” he added.

(c) 2011, Los Angeles Times.

Visit the Los Angeles Times on the Internet at http://www.latimes.com/.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.