Troops in Deadly Crash Were After Taliban Leader

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As NATO forces battled Afghan insurgents Sunday near the site of the copter crash that killed 30 U.S. troops, one group is preparing to reach out to the families of the fallen heroes.

Among those killed in Saturday's insurgent attack upon a CH-47 Chinook were 22 members of the elite Navy SEAL Team Six. None, however, were part of the team that took part in the May 1 Osama bin Laden raid.

In the wake Saturday's tragedy, the United Warrior Survivor Foundation is calling for donations to help the grieving families.

"I was having my Saturday morning coffee, waiting for my husband to wake up when I heard the news," said Elizabeth Brown, executive director of the UWSF.

The SEALs and other troops had been on a mission to provide aid to fellow soldiers who were under heavy fire when the assault took place, U.S. officials said Sunday.

It was deadliest incident for American forces since the start of the Afghanistan war.

"My heart broke even before the reports began indicating that it was Spec Ops personnel," said Brown, who is the wife of a Spec Ops soldier.

Given the magnitude of Saturday's loss, the UWSF is having to provide support on a scale that is unprecedented.

"Right now, we have an urgent financial need to help us purchase additional materials for grief kits which is why I am calling on the public to make donations," Brown said.

Included in the kits, officially called "comfort bags," is a book for widows, a grief journal and gifts such as candles, bath salts and teas.

Brown made it clear the donations are about more than financial aid, but letting grieving families know they are not alone.

"Our organization is so important to our survivors because it is the only one of its kind," Brown explained. "We give these spouses the opportunity to connect with others who have something in common."

On Saturday, both President Obama and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell offered their condolences to the soldiers' loved ones.

"Their deaths are a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices made by the men and women of our military and their families, including all who have served in Afghanistan," Obama said.

The governor of Virginia, where many of Saturday's fallen had been based, lauded them as heroes saying they had "died serving their nation" and the "cause of freedom."

"At this time of trying and pain, our thoughts and prayers are with those who were lost and the loved ones they have left behind," the governor said. "God bless the brave Americans who have left us. God Bless their families and friends," he said.

Crash Details

The helicopter was transporting the troops to an ongoing battle early Saturday between coalition forces and insurgents in eastern Wardak province, NATO said in a statement.

The Taliban claims it shot down the helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade, but the official cause of the crash has not yet been determined.

Every piece of the helicopter was being recovered and no one was being allowed in the area until the investigation was completed.

This attack was deadliest single loss for U.S. forces in the decade-long war.

"They were far from home, but we know that they were also where they wanted to be, doing what they wanted to do, alongside men who were perhaps closer to them than their own brothers," said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

NATO said the operation began as a search for a Taliban leader responsible for insurgent operations in the Tangi Valley, when the ground forces saw several insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and AK-47 assault rifles and engaged them, killing some of them. They then called for assistance.

"As the insurgents continued to fire, the combined force on the ground requested additional forces to assist the operation. Those additional personnel were inbound to the scene when the CH-47 carrying them crashed, killing all on board," the statement said.

NATO said the ground forces broke contact with the insurgents after the crash to secure the scene and look for survivors.

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