Local veterans are expressing pride in their younger counterparts for tracking, confronting and, ultimately, taking down America’s most wanted enemy, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Jasper Boswell, commander of Cassatt’s Sanders Stoney American Legion Post No. 203, said bin Laden’s death “really brought closure” for him.
“I was concerned about how in the world they could catch him,” Boswell said of the nearly decade-long hunt. “Then I was thinking about all our technology. We put a man on the moon, so why couldn’t we catch this man.”
American special operations forces cornered bin Laden at a compound Sunday in Pakistan, attempted to capture him but ended up killing him in a firefight, according to U.S. officials.
Boswell said he is concerned about how bin Laden was able to hide in Pakistan for what appears to have been some time.
“It’s incredible how close he was to (the) Pakistan (capital) and for them not to know. It’s over now,” Boswell said of bin Laden, “but terrorism is not over. It’s a contentious thing. As a Christian, I feel sorry for (bin Laden), but he had to go. This is major closure for those people in 9/11.”
Camden James Leroy Belk American Legion Post No. 17’s Perry McCoy said most of his fellow veterans were “all happy” about bin Laden’s death.
“We’re excited it happened,” McCoy said. “It was due. Justice has been served.”
McCoy said he and his fellow vets were also happy with how the takedown was accomplished.
“We thought it went down real ‘right.’ We knew we got him this time,” McCoy said.
U.S. forces came close to capturing or killing bin Laden just months after the Sept. 11 attacks during a December 2001 battle at Tora Bora, a cave complex in eastern Afghanistan. Bin Laden was thought to be hiding there during the air and ground strike maneuvers.
In a speech to the nation late Sunday night, President Barack Obama said, “the United States launched a targeted operation against (a) compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they kill Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.”
Senior Obama administration officials, speaking immediately after the president’s speech, said a small team conducted a helicopter raid on the Abbotabad compound that lasted approximately 40 minutes. In addition to bin Laden, three adult men, including a man thought be one of bin Laden’s sons, were killed. Several women and children were there, including a woman who was killed when -- officials said -- one of the men used her as a human shield. Two other women were injured.
Ralph Strickland, past commander of Lugoff-Elgin Larry Jeffers American Legion Post No. 195 said bin Laden’s death is something the American people will remember for some time to come.
“What I’m taking away from this is that this is just one benchmark in the longer timeline it’s going to take to reassure America and her allies that when we commit to a course of action, it’s typically the strength of military resolve that makes our world a safer place,” Strickland said. “It’s not the politicians; it’s the boots on the ground -- the sailors, airmen and marines as well.”
He said from what he understood, the Navy Sea, Air and Land teams, or SEALS, which conducted the mission received air support from other branches of the military. He said it was a joint military operation accomplished by “doers, not talkers.”
Strickland said he had not been able to catch up with his fellow veterans to discuss bin Laden’s demise.
“The news came four days after we last met. I assure you, it will be the topic of our next meeting,” Strickland said. “This is the culmination of so much sacrifice along the way. It will be memorable and count for something not only for those that were around on 9/11, but for subsequent generations.
“We gave our word and we are keeping it.”