The Strange family has moved a step closer to getting the answers they have been in search of since Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Strange was killed in Afghanistan on Aug. 6, 2011.
Strange was one of 30 U.S. servicemen killed when Taliban fighters in the Wardak Province shot down their CH-47 D Chinook helicopter, Extortion 17.
It was the greatest loss of American life from a single battle in the 13-year conflict.
Among the 38 killed in the mission that day were 25 Special Forces personnel, including 17 Navy Seals and 15 members of Seal Team Six, which was responsible for killing Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in May 2011.
Since then, Strange’s father, Charles Strange, has sought to find out what exactly happened to his son.
On March 6, U.S. Rep. Robert Brady (D-1st Dist.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, drafted and dispatched a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, asking him to meet with the Strange family to in order to respond to their questions regarding the Extortion 17 mission.
On Feb. 27, the Congress oversight committee held a hearing in Washington in an attempt to ask questions about the shoot-down of the helicopter and the way that the remains of the fallen service members were handled.
Despite the fact that the families were originally told that they would be given the opportunity to testify at the hearing, none of the family members were permitted to ask questions that day.
Some of the questions that Charles Strange continues to seek answer to are:
• Why was his son’s body cremated by the military?
• Why was a refurbished 1960s CH-47D Chinook helicopter used that day, as opposed to a more modern AH-64A Apache Helicopter?
• Why were so many elite U.S. servicemen put into a single helicopter?
• Why was the Black Box aboard the helicopter never recovered?
• Why were seven Afghan Commandos switched out of the helicopter at the last minute?
• Why were the U.S. servicemen aboard Extortion 17 denied permission to initiate fire after spotting armed Taliban fighters in the area?
• Why was the Extortion 17 helicopter flown into the Tango Valley, a Taliban stronghold, without any military air support (Apache or Ac-130 aircraft)?
On March 18, Charles Strange, along with three other families, filed a lawsuit against Afghan President Hamid Karzai, accusing him of betraying their sons in the helicopter shootdown.
The family is again represented by Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch, the same attorney who won their case last year against the National Security Administration in a ruling that deemed the NSA’s bulk collection of phone data to be probably unconstitutional.
The new lawsuit seeks $600 million in damages from Karzai and the country of Afghanistan.
“I want to know why winning the hearts and the mind of the Afghan people is more important than protecting our soldiers,” Strange said. ••
Gregory Pacana can be reached at email@example.com.