Petty Officer 2ND Class Matthew Axelson

Many Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives hide among the treacherous peaks of Afghanistan, making searches and missions difficult and dangerous. However, for Navy SEALs called in to search the hostile areas, it’s just another day’s work.

Petty Officer Axelson, along with Petty Officer Dietz, were part of a four-man reconnaissance team sent on one such mission, tasked with finding a key Taliban leader east of Asadabad, Afghanistan. As the team made their way through the mountainous region, Taliban sympathizers spotted the SEALs, and alerted terrorist fighters of the team’s presence.

A deadly firefight ensued between the four SEALs and an enemy force of at least 30 fighters. Positioning themselves as best they could, the team realized they needed help. They radioed for reinforcements and soon, a MH-47 Chinook helicopter was on its way to help in the fight.

However, the Taliban fighters spotted the Chinook as it made its way toward the SEALs position, and they launched a RPG toward the aircraft, shooting it down and killing all 16 men aboard.

The SEALs knew their chances were slim, but they continued to hold their ground. Both Axelson and Dietz were severely injured, but they continued to fight, taking several of the enemy with them to their graves.

Although Axelson and Dietz died from their wounds, their actions allowed one of the Seals to evade the enemy and escape. A few days later, the surviving SEAL was recovered by U.S. forces.

Both Axelson and Dietz were posthumously awarded the Navy Cross on Sept. 13, 2006.


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