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Land Mine Kills Navy SEAL


By Vernon Loeb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 29, 2002; Page A06

 

A Navy SEAL was killed in southern Afghanistan after stepping on a land mine while conducting a small unit training mission at an abandoned al Qaeda base near the Kandahar airport, defense officials said yesterday.

Chief Petty Officer Matthew J. Bourgeois, 35, of Virginia Beach died at 8:30 a.m. yesterday in Afghanistan (11 p.m. Wednesday EST) as he trained with U.S. Special Operations troops at Tarnac farm, an al Qaeda training base abandoned in November, officials said. A second Navy SEAL, not identified, was injured by the mine. Officials said his wounds are not life-threatening.

Bourgeois is the 31st U.S. serviceman to die in and around Afghanistan since the war on terrorism began Oct. 7. He was the first killed by a land mine. At least three U.S. servicemen have been injured by mines, one near the Kandahar airport and two at Bagram Air Base, 35 miles north of Kabul.

Bourgeois grew up in Tallahassee and graduated from Leon High School there. He served in the Florida National Guard from 1984 to 1987 before enlisting in the Navy. He initially trained as a Hospital Corpsman and began training with Navy SEAL Team 2 in the Norfolk area in December 1989.

His five years with the unit included deployment to the Persian Gulf War. After four months of training at Fort Bragg, N.C., Bourgeois joined Navy SEAL Team 1, also based in the Norfolk area, in May 1995. He joined his current unit, which the Navy declined to identify, in 1999.

Matthew Bourgeois and his wife, Michelle, had a son seven months ago, said the serviceman's grandfather, Tom Bourgeois of Tallahassee. He said his grandson relished the challenge presented by the SEALs, the Navy's elite Special Operations forces.

"He was that kind of guy," Tom Bourgeois said. "He was in number-one condition -- he had to be to be in the SEALs. They kept their boys in top shape."

SEAL is short for Sea, Air, Land teams, which were first created as a Navy counterinsurgency force in 1962.

Bourgeois's father, Tom Bourgeois Jr., declined to comment yesterday when contacted at his home in Portsmouth, Va., where he and his wife moved two years ago to be closer to their son.

Another SEAL based in the Norfolk area, Petty Officer 1st Class Neil C. Roberts, 32, died March 4 after he fell from an MH-47 Chinook helicopter during Operation Anaconda south of Gardez and was apparently captured and executed by al Qaeda fighters. He was the first Navy member to die in combat.

 

© 2002 The Washington Post Company


   Apparent mine blast kills local SEAL
By DENNIS O'BRIEN, The Virginian-Pilot
© March 29, 2002

 

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Chief Petty Officer Matthew Joseph Bourgeois and his family. Photo by Associated Press.

An area SEAL corpsman was killed and another was wounded Thursday in an apparent land-mine explosion during a training exercise in Afghanistan.

Chief Petty Officer Matthew Joseph Bourgeois, 35, of Virginia Beach, died after he apparently stepped on a land mine or booby trap, officials said.

Bourgeois was the second local SEAL killed in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts of Virginia Beach was killed March 4.

A 14-year SEAL veteran, Bourgeois was originally from Tallahassee, Fla. He is survived by a wife and 7-month-old son residing in Virginia Beach.

Bourgeois' sister, who is married to a SEAL, lives in Chesapeake. His parents moved to Portsmouth to be near their children and grandchildren, Bourgeois' grandfather said.

The grandfather, Louis Bourgeois of Tallahassee, described him as a ``great kid,'' who loved to hunt and fish.

The Navy said that Bourgeois was attached to an area SEAL team, but it declined to say whether he was based at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base or the Fleet Combat Training Center Atlantic at Dam Neck in Virginia Beach.

Another SEAL, whose name was not disclosed, was wounded by the apparent mine blast. His injuries were not life-threatening, and he remains in Afghanistan, said Marine Maj. Brad Lowell, a spokesman for the Tampa, Fla.-based U.S. Central Command, which controls military operations in Afghanistan.

A veteran of the Persian Gulf War, Bourgeois had been in Afghanistan for about two months. He was expected to return home next month.

Bourgeois' awards and decorations include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, said SEAL spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Denise Shorey.

The corpsman's death brings to 31 the number of Americans killed in combat or accidents in or near Afghanistan. About 6,000 American troops are in Afghanistan.

Bourgeois was killed and the second SEAL was injured at about 8:30 a.m. Thursday (11 p.m. Wednesday, local time) during a small-unit training exercise south of Kandahar, military officials said.

``We are pretty certain it was a mine,'' Lowell said, ``though we're not certain if it was placed there recently.''

 

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A battleground for more than two decades, Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world.

According to a September 2001 report by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, about 90 people each month were wounded in 2000 by mines and unexploded ordnance in Afghanistan.

The Naval Special Warfare Command will not say how many SEALs are in Afghanistan, nor to which units those SEALs belong.

But SEALs have been in Afghanistan since at least November, when an advance unit landed at a remote airstrip outside Kandahar to ensure that it was free of enemy forces before a large contingent of Marines arrived.

SEALs have also searched al-Qaida cave complexes in the country.

SEALs obtain or verify intelligence about the strength, capabilities and intentions of enemy forces. SEALs also conduct raids, train local forces and sabotage the enemy. Every SEAL is qualified in diving, parachuting and demolitions.

Even when deployed in a combat theater, special operators and other units continue to train during lulls in the action, Lowell said.

``You want to be as sharp as possible, you want to sharpen your skills on a daily basis, whether forward-deployed or not.''

Since 1999, training accidents have killed a local SEAL each year.

In 2001, Petty Officer 2nd Class Scott Danielson, 26, died in rough surf at Virginia Beach during a training exercise in which the small boat he was operating capsized. In 2000, Petty Officer 1st Class Brad K. Tucker, 30, was fatally injured in a 160-foot fall from a helicopter that was attempting to drop him and another SEAL into the water near the Bahamas.

In 1999, Petty Officer 2nd Class Steve Stroud died in a training accident in Arkansas when the Humvee he was driving ran off the road and overturned.

 

Staff writer Matthew Jones contributed to this report.

Reach Dennis O'Brien at dobrien@pilotonline.com or 446-2355.


Navy SEAL Killed by Land Mine in Afghanistan Had Infant Son

matthewjbourgeois.jpg (5078 bytes)
AP
Matthew J. Bourgeois (SEAL)

Friday, March 29, 2002 Associated Press

NORFOLK, Va. — Chief Petty Officer Matthew J. Bourgeois, the Navy SEAL killed by a land mine in Afghanistan this week, had expected to return home next month to be with his wife and infant son.

"He used to call his wife every night by telephone," said Tom Bourgeois, his grandfather. "He had close contact with his family."

Bourgeois's widow, Michelle Bourgeois, declined to be interviewed. Her 35-year-old husband, who was a medic, died Wednesday night during a training mission near the U.S. base in Kandahar, according to the Defense Department.

Another SEAL suffered injuries that were not life-threatening.

"This morning his dad called and I was still in bed and I was surprised. It was an awful shock," Bourgeois's grandfather said. "He was supposed to come home in the middle part of April."

Bourgeois' parents, Tom and Mae Bourgeois, moved to Virginia about two years ago to be closer to the family, which now includes their grandchild, Matthew Jr., born 7 months ago.

Bourgeois was the second Norfolk area-based SEAL killed during the war behind Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts, 32, of Woodland, Calif.

"We are very saddened to prepare for yet another memorial service," Lt. Cmdr. Denise Shorey, a spokeswoman for the Navy's East Coast-based SEALs, told reporters.

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AP
Tom Bourgeois sits near a photo of his grandson.

"Once again we are faced with the reality that we are contributing to a very important mission for our nation's defense," Shorey said.

The explosion that killed Bourgeois came from a munition placed in the ground by the enemy, Shorey said. It appears to have been a land mine but also could have been some kind of booby trap, she said.

Bourgeois graduated from Leon High School in Tallahassee. His Navy service included a stint in the Persian Gulf War, the grandfather said.

Bourgeois had been assigned to various East and West Coast commands and spent the last several years in the Norfolk area, where several hundred SEALs are stationed, Shorey said.

His grieving SEAL colleagues did not want to comment, Shorey said.

Fourteen Americans have been killed in combat or hostile situations since President Bush launched military operations in Afghanistan on Oct. 7.

SEAL teams are the Navy's special forces. The acronym stands for sea, air and land.

 


Norfolk SEAL Recalled as Witty Perfectionist, Family Man


Associated Press
March 31, 2002; Page C4

NORFOLK -- Even when Navy SEAL Matthew J. Bourgeois was just hanging out with friends, he strove to do his best. "We liked to shoot [target practice] with Matt, and I tell you, if he didn't get it right the first time, there was time and time again that he tried until he made it to the top," said friend Marci Labrum, whose husband also is a SEAL.

Bourgeois, a 35-year-old chief petty officer, was killed Wednesday night when he apparently stepped on a suspected land mine during training near the U.S. base in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He was the second Norfolk-area SEAL to die in the war against terrorism.

The explosion that killed Bourgeois, a medic, came from what appeared to be a land mine, said Lt. Cmdr. Denise Shorey, a spokeswoman for the Navy's East Coast-based SEALs. Another Virginia-based SEAL suffered injuries that were not life-threatening.

Bourgeois, a 14-year Navy and SEAL veteran, was from Tallahassee. He was married and had a 7-month-old son, Matthew Jr.

His widow, Michelle Bourgeois, declined to be interviewed. On Friday, Labrum read a statement on her behalf.

"Matt knew it was a difficult and dangerous job, but that never deterred him," the statement said. "He loved being a SEAL and working with his teammates, no matter in what circumstances. Matt was quick-witted and sharp. He could bring a smile to your face with a comical phrase, in a snap of a second.

"Matt would want everyone to remember him as a loving husband and father, a loving son and brother, a true friend and warrior, who never once questioned his commitment and integrity for his family and country."

Labrum, who has known the family about a year, also shared her own recollections of Bourgeois.

"Matt is an incredible man, very funny, very witty," Labrum told reporters at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base. "He had a charm all his own, and he loved to be a perfectionist."

He was quick to find humor in even the most basic of daily life experiences, as well as on the job, Labrum said.

"You bring humor into that type of job because it is such a pressure job," she said. "They bring it to cut some of it, lighten the load."

Funeral arrangements were pending. Bourgeois' body will be brought to Dover Air Force Base, Del., military officials said Friday.

Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts, 32, of Woodland, Calif, who was killed March 4, is the other Norfolk area-based SEAL who died in the war.

 


FRIENDS PRAISE DEAD SEAL'S DEVOTION

Published: March 30, 2002
Section: LOCAL, page B1
Source: JACK DORSEY THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT
© 2002- Landmark Communications Inc.

NORFOLK - Matt Bourgeois used his humor to relieve the pressure of his job as a Navy SEAL ``to lighten the load'' in a profession where he was a military perfectionist.

That is how family friend Marci Labrum characterized Chief Petty Officer Matthew Joseph Bourgeois on Friday, a day after the 35-year-old husband and father was killed in an apparent land mind explosion in Afghanistan. Another SEAL, whose name was not disclosed, was slightly wounded in the explosion. Both men were assigned to special operations units based in Hampton Roads, at either Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base or at Virginia Beach's Fleet Combat Training Center Atlantic at Dam Neck. The Navy has declined to disclose their specific assignments.

Labrum, the wife of a SEAL who has known Bourgeois and his family for the past year, spoke on the family's behalf, saying the 14-year Navy veteran's wife, Michelle, and their 7-month-old son, Matthew Jr., were doing as well as could be expected. ``She is a pillar of strength and I am very amazed,'' Labrum said. Like other SEAL team wives, they all know the risks of the job, she said.   ``You marry them and you know this is a dangerous business going in,'' she said. ``You obviously know that this is their passion and you support them just like you would anyone else you believe in.''

While the family declined to be interviewed, Labrum read a statement from the family that talked about Bourgeois' devotion to his family, SEAL teammates and country.    Reading the statement, Labrum said: ``He had perseverance and determination, which made him excellent at his job.   ``He was always striving to be the best; hence, this made him an outstanding SEAL. Matt knew it was a difficult and dangerous job, but that never deterred him.

``He loved being a SEAL. . . . Matt was quick-witted and sharp. He could bring a smile to your face with a comical phrase, in a snap of a second.''   She said he would have wanted to be remembered as a ``loving husband and father, a loving son and brother, a true friend and warrior, who never once questioned his commitment and integrity for his family and country.''

A private memorial service is scheduled for later next week, but no date has been announced. Funeral services are pending. Bourgeois' parents, Thomas and Mae Bourgeois, moved to Portsmouth about two years ago to be closer to the family. Bourgeois' sister, who is married to a SEAL, lives in Chesapeake.    Bourgeois was the second Norfolk area-based SEAL killed during the war. Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts, 32, of Woodland, Calif., was killed in Afghanistan March 4 during a firefight.

Reach Jack Dorsey at jdorsey(AT)pilotonline.com or 446-2284.
Marci Labrum, the wife of a Navy SEAL, speaks Friday in behalf of
Michelle Bourgeois, widow of Chief Petty Officer Matthew Bourgeois.
COLOR PHOTOS
BERND KAMMERER/ASSOCIATED PRESS
A military detail of soldiers and sailors carry the body of Chief
Petty Officer Matthew J. Bourgeois from a transport plane Friday in
Ramstein, Germany.
Navy Chief Petty Officer Matthew J. Bourgeois died Thursday serving
in Afghanistan.

 

 

As most of you know, a second SEAL lost his life in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom - Chief Petty Officer Matthew Bourgeois.  Matt was a graduate of Class 162 (10/89) and served in several commands during his Naval Special Warfare career.  Matt was assigned to an East Coast SEAL Team at the time of his death.  His wife Michelle and 7-month old son, Matthew, Jr., currently reside in Virginia Beach.

A memorial service is scheduled for 1300 Friday, 5 April 2002 at the Base Chapel NAB, Little Creek, Norfolk Virginia.  Uniform for Navy personnel is Service Dress Blue.

The family has requested that in lieu of flowers donations be made to the Matthew Bourgeois Memorial Fund, Navy Federal Credit Union, Lynnhaven Branch, 509 Viking Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23452

Condolence may be sent to Michelle Bourgeois, 2916 Sugar Maple Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23456.

God bless Matt and his family.

MEDIA RELEASE      Naval Special Warfare Command     Public Affairs Office     Thursday, March 28, 2002

Navy SEAL Killed Conducting Training in Afghanistan

By Naval Special Warfare Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. – The Department of Defense has confirmed that Navy SEAL Chief (HMC) Matthew J. Bourgeois, 35, was killed on Thursday (Afghanistan time; approximately 11 p.m. EST Wednesday) while conducting small unit training at a remote location near Qandahar, Afghanistan.

Stationed in Norfolk, Va., Chief Bourgeois was deployed to Afghanistan in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM and was killed after apparently stepping on enemy ground emplaced munitions—it appears to have been a land mine, but exact details are unavailable.

 A 14-year Navy and SEAL veteran, Chief Bourgeois is survived by his wife, 7-month old son and parents who reside in Virginia.  Originally from Tallahassee, Fla. (home of record), Chief Bourgeois graduated from Talahassee’s Leon High School and served in the Florida National Guard prior to joining the Navy. Shortly after enlisting, he entered Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (Sea, Air, Land) training in San Diego and graduated in 1988, Class 162.

His awards and decorations include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (2), Good Conduct Medal (3), Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Southwest Asia Service Medal (2), Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (4), Pistol Sharpshooter Medal, National Defense Service Medal and Kuwait Liberation Medal

Per a request from Bourgeois’ family, all media queries regarding this incident should be directed to the Naval Special Warfare Group TWO Public Affairs Officer, Lt. Cmdr. Denise Shorey, at 757-462-2282.           

                                        

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Donations be made to the Naval Special Warfare Foundation, P.O. Box 5365, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23471, or to the Neil Roberts Memorial Fund, Navy Federal Credit Union, Lynnhaven Branch, 509 Viking Drive, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23452.
For the sake of all the children of Special Operations Warriors
,   from all military services.    Please help them finish their educations.

                      

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BMCM Harry O'Connor (Class 92) was killed while performing an aerial stunt for

the movie XXX (triple X) while on location in Czechoslovakia, Thursday, 4 April 2002. 

It was reported that he was being pulled at high speed on a paraglider that hit a pillar of the

Palacky bridge.  He died on scene from injuries.

Harry served in SEAL Team ONE and THREE, EOD, and on the parachute team (Leap Frogs).

A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday,13 April 2002  class="720142720-10042002">at 10:00 AM at the Base Theater on NAB,    Coronado.   His family encourages Harry's friends and Teammates to attend.

Following the service, a remembrance of Harry's life will be hosted at Club Coronado (11:00 AM - 3:00 PM ) .

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