Father of Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan: 'He loved what he did'
The parents of Lt. Cmdr. Jonas Kelsall, one of 30 U.S. servicemen killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan last week, said their son was 17 when he enlisted in the Navy and quickly became a member of the SEALs, the elite special operations force that carries out some of the military’s riskiest and most demanding operations.
“When he said he wanted to become a SEAL, we asked him one question: Is that what you really want to do?” John Kelsall of Lakewood said of his son. “He said, ‘Yes.’ We said, ‘We’ll support you 2000%. Tell us what you can.’ ”
“There was a lot about him we didn’t know. We just trusted the fact that he loved what he did.”
Saturday’s helicopter crash in Afghanistan marked the largest single loss of U.S. military lives in the 10-year war. Jonas Kelsall and 16 others were part of Naval Special Warfare Command, nearly all of them members of SEAL Team 6, the unit that conducted the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and is made up of just a few hundred of some of the best-trained fighters in the U.S. military.
Also among the fallen were five support sailors, five aircrew members from the Army's 10th Mountain Division and three Air Force ground support personnel.
U.S. officials said the helicopter was felled by enemy fire, and the Taliban quickly claimed responsibility. A subsequent U.S. airstrike killed the local Taliban leader as well as the man determined to have actually shot the chopper down, NATA officials announced Wednesday.
Kelsall said his son’s wife, Victoria, called about 6 a.m. Sunday to tell him that Jonas had been killed. Since then, he said, the SEALs have visited with the family and provided strong support.
“The SEALs are an incredibly wonderful family,” he said. “They do everything right.”
John Kelsall said his son was born and raised in Shreveport, La. It was there that Jonas met his friend, Chief Petty Officer Robert James Reeves, who was also killed in Saturday’s crash.
John Kelsall said his son had been on multiple missions in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as in the Phillipines.
Asked how the family was handling his son’s death, Kelsall said, his voice quavering, “We have our marching orders from Jonas. We have to make him proud.”
“He told us once, ‘If I die on a mission, I’ll die happy because I’m doing something for my country,' ” said his mother, Teri Kelsall. “He told us that several times.”
The couple said they were going to Shreveport this weekend to be part of a memorial service for Reeves. They said they had received a condolence call from the governor of Louisiana.
-- Tony Perry
Photo: Lt. Cmdr. Jonas Kelsall. Credit: Family photo