Remembering Michael: A father’s first year without his son
Michael Strange, 25, was killed August 6, 2011, while on his third tour in Afghanistan. Strange, whose father, Charlie, works for SugarHouse casino, will be honored with a memorial statue on the casino’s grounds.
Charlie Strange still talks to his son Michael every day. The fact that Michael can’t respond doesn’t seem to matter.
Charlie said he knows his son is listening.
Navy Cryptologist Technician Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Strange, a 25-year-old graduate of North Catholic High School, was killed on August 6, 2011 when Taliban fighters shot down an American Chinook helicopter in Eastern Afghanistan, killing 30 American soldiers. It is considered the greatest loss of life in the Afghanistan campaign. Michael was on his third tour when he was killed.
In the year since his son’s death, Charlie Strange said he’s been grieving.
“Sometimes the pain becomes so unbearable.” Strange said. “At times, I literally feel like I’m going to go insane. There are mornings when I get dressed and I get as far as that front door and have to stop because I just can’t go outside.”
He said, though, that he’s received an outpouring of support that gets him through the tough times. Strange was also overjoyed to learn of a special bit of news — in honor of Michael and the other Americans killed that day, SugarHouse Casino, along with the Penn Treaty Special Services District and various veterans’ groups, plan to erect the 8.6.11 Warrior Memorial statue.
The casino has offered a site on its property for the statue on Columbus Boulevard between Penn’s Landing and the casino. A nonprofit organization is now being formed to raise funds for the design and construction of the memorial.
Along with the good news of the memorial, Strange said he’s found support in his coworkers at the casino and in his neighbors in the community.
Michael’s father and several other family members have strong ties to Fishtown— Charlie has been working as a table games dealer at SugarHouse Casino since 2010.
Michael’s grandmother Bernice lived there for many years and his aunt, Maggie O’Brien, still resides there and is president of the Fishtown Action Committee.
Michael Strange grew up in Wissinoming and attended Saint Bartholomew Catholic School, then went on to attend Northeast Catholic High School. Charlie Strange said his son was always intrigued by the military, so when Michael told his father he wanted to join the Navy, it was no surprise. After enlisting, Michael studied to become a cryptologic technician and graduated third in his class.
In 2009, Michael joined the Navy SEALs in a support role. With his unique combination of physical stamina, courage and aptitude for code breaking, he quickly advanced to the Navy’s most elite SEAL Team, SEAL Team 6. That team was responsible for killing Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in May of last year.
Shortly after Michael’s death last summer, the Strange family was escorted by Philadelphia police motorcade and members of the motorcycle group Warrior Watch to Hetzell’s field in Fishtown for the Freddie Adams tournament, during which a memorial ceremony was held for Michael. This was followed by a memorial softball game between the North Catholic alumni team and the team representing SEAL Team 6.
These days when Charlie is not working at the casino or spending time with his family, he is working on the Michael Strange Memorial Foundation.
The purpose of the foundation is to provide emotional support and assistance to the families of those veterans killed or injured in the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars. In addition to emotional support, the foundation will also offer financial support and scholarships.
When asked what he would say to his son if he could go back in time, Charlie paused for a moment, fighting back tears.
“Don’t leave,” he said he would tell his son.
Reporter Greg Pacana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the memorial, including information on how to make a donation, please visit www.6august11.org.
Donations to the Michael Strange Foundation are tax-deductible and can be made online at
SEAL Team 6 merchandise is also available on the website.