"Love ya Dad"
Chief Warrant Officer Ron Young's AH-64 Apache Longbow helicopter was shot down 23 March 2003 -- just three days after our nation launched Operation Iraqi Freedom in further prosecution of our preemptive war against Jihadistan terrorists. In a recent conversation, Young detailed the 28 days he and his copilot, CWO David Williams, experienced as POWs. Of their liberation by U.S. Marines, he says, "I felt as if I had won the lottery of life."
Young has been subjected to some degree of "celebrity-hero" status as the result of his ordeal, but in the course of our conversation, he mentioned a close friend and mentor, CWO Aaron Weaver, whom he humbly considers an authentic hero.
Indeed -- CWO Weaver is just that.
Aaron Andrew Weaver was the second of eight children. His father, Mike Weaver, adopted Aaron and his brother Ryan when they were toddlers. Like many great Patriots, Aaron always knew he wanted to serve his country.
Aaron, in fact, was part of a Patriot caste. His grandfather was a veteran of World War II and Korea, and his father was a Marine. Shortly after graduating from high school, he left his hometown of Inverness, Florida, and followed his brother Steven into the Army. His younger brother Ryan was next to join the Army, and his sister joined the Air Force. Aaron became a member of the Army's elite "All American" Division, the 82nd Airborne.
In 1993, Weaver, then a 22-year-old Army Ranger sergeant, volunteered for the Ranger strike team sent to rescue survivors of a chaotic mission gone wrong in Mogadishu, Somalia. There, 18 soldiers were killed and more than 70 wounded in a ferocious battle with forces loyal to Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. For his actions in Mogadishu, Weaver received a Bronze Star. The battle itself would later be chronicled in the book, "Black Hawk Down," and in a movie by the same name, in which Weaver made a brief cameo appearance.
Following his service in Mogadishu, Weaver set his sights on becoming an Army aviator like his two brothers. A few years later, he completed pilot training and was assigned an OH-58 Kiowa as part of the 17th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Bragg.
Prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom, Aaron was diagnosed with cancer. Yet despite undergoing treatment, he resolved to remain on active duty. When he learned that his unit would soon deploy to Iraq, he relentlessly petitioned the Army to allow him to go. Finally, Weaver received a medical waiver and was allowed to stay with his unit on the condition that he continue his cancer screening.
"It's a brotherhood thing," said his father. "He had to be there."
In Iraq, Aaron flew his OH-58 on many missions in support of ground forces, gathering vital intelligence on the location and strength of insurgent forces. He was a soldier's soldier, and his spirit served as inspiration for all those around him. He was scheduled to come home this month, and he and his wife were looking forward to starting the next leg of his service -- as a flight instructor at Fort Rucker, Alabama.
On 8 January, en route back to Baghdad, CWO Aaron Weaver and eight others were killed when their UH-60 MEDEVAC Black Hawk, clearly marked with its red cross, was hit by rocket fire near Fallujah.
"He was an Army Ranger," said his father. "Tough mentally and tough physically." Yet as is often the case with Patriot warriors, Aaron Weaver had another side -- a side perhaps best captured by the way he signed his letters to his father: "Love ya Dad." Speaking for the family, Aaron's aunt, Kristy Weaver Patterson, said, "I'm very proud of him, that he made the decision to sacrifice his life for the betterment of the United States of America. He paid the ultimate price and his children will continue to pay the ultimate price. But my family has no regrets, and we are very proud of Aaron."
Says fellow Patriot Ron Young of his colleague, "Aaron will remain my personal hero and friend for life. He fought every battle in his life as though it could be the last, and many times it could have been his last. He remained a true leader, and he exemplified the Army's values. Those who knew him loved him dearly. America lost one of its greatest sons when Aaron was taken from us."
In addition to his father, mother and siblings, Aaron Weaver is survived by his wife, Nancy; their son, Austin; and their daughter, Savannah (http://patriotpost.us/reference/aaron-weaver/).
This brief profile of an American fighting man's service and sacrifice on behalf of his countrymen is not submitted because of his unique status as a Patriot. Rather, it is submitted because Aaron Weaver's story typifies the courage and dedication of so many uniformed Patriots -- those sworn to defend their nation's Constitution and the liberty it guarantees.
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"Members of our military are undertaking difficult missions in some of the most dangerous and desolate parts of the world. These volunteers know the risks they face, and they know the cause they serve. ... In this vital cause, some of our men and women in uniform have fallen, some have returned home with terrible injuries, and all who sacrifice will have the permanent gratitude of the United States of America." --President Bush in remarks delivered this week at the National Defense University