Local servicemen respond to Bin Laden's death

In the late hours of May 1, more than 56 million Americans gathered around their televisions to watch President Barack Obama’s announcement that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.

According to officials, last August, the White House received a “possible lead” to Bin Laden’s location in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and on Sunday night, a team of Navy Seals carried out the operation to kill him.

“For over two decades, Bin Laden has been al Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies. The death of Bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda,” said Obama. “Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must — and we will — remain vigilant at home and abroad.”

“He definitely had some great words,” said Marine Corps Cpl. Tyler Bare of Ocean View after the announcement. “I feel he made the right decision by waiting, by making sure that he had his team find out every bit of information about it. My initial reaction was probably just about like the rest of Americans. I was glad, but I guess not a weight lifted off my shoulders. But at least it’s a start to the closure of this war.”

Bare, who is currently on inactive reserve, did a tour in Afghanistan as a military police officer.

“There really is no place like home – just our lifestyle. To be in a third-world country like that and see how those people live, you just have to think to yourself, ‘Man, we’ve got it made.’”

He was quick to say that, although Bin Laden’s death is a victory for them, Americans should still be vigilant.

“I’m happy, but I don’t think we need to let our guard down. He was in hiding for 10 years, and he has all these other people that work for him. I’m not saying there’s going to be an attack, but I don’t think we need to let our guard down,” Bare said. “Look at all we’ve learned from these experiences. Who knew the most minute stuff… Shoes, they put a bomb in shoes.”

Other servicemen hailing from Delaware had a similar reaction to this week’s news of Bin Laden’s death.

“This is major morale boost and has been long awaited,” said Senior Airman Levi Simmons of the United States Air Force, emphasizing that he was not speaking for his unit or the Air Force. “It shows that, no matter how long it takes, if you attack America we will get you. This makes me that much more proud to be part of the military.”

Simmons who is from Seaford, is currently stationed at Incirlik Air Base in Adana, Turkey, and said that he stayed up four hours into his sleep time to catch Obama’s broadcast.

“There was a lot of speculation on what the president’s address would be. It was mainly rumors until we actually heard it on TV.”

“The news spread through the ship in a matter of minutes,” said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Josh Ritter. “You could hear cheers coming from different compartments and berthings.”

Ritter, who is originally from Dagsboro, is currently deployed on the USS Cleveland in the South Pacific, on a humanitarian mission.

“The news gave us a sense of relief. It can be stressful not knowing what your actions are accomplishing. But, in the end, it’s as if we have finally completed a forgotten mission.”

Army Capt. Jeff Cook of Dagsboro, who is currently stationed at Fort Irwin in California and had done a 12-month tour in Iraq in 2009, said that he is still trying to work out how he feels about the news.

“I can tell you that most of the thoughts from soldiers I work with are basically the same. ‘It’s about time! ...but I bet we’re not coming home any time soon,’” he said.

Many people in the local community have felt the hardships of the wars that began with Bin Laden’s plot to attack the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001.

For some, it seems like only yesterday when news broke that Indian River High School graduate and Marine Russell White had died in Afghanistan at the age of 19. And, for some of those affected by the wars, Bin Laden’s death could help fortify a belief that those they lost did not die in vain.

“I lost six friends in Iraq and Afghanistan – not during my deployment, but throughout my career. One of them was Russell White, who we went to school with,” said Bare.

“It’s good to know we got that guy,” he added of Bin Laden. “It’s good to know that the stuff that we are doing over there has been proven to work… that we’re doing good things.”

As the president said on Sunday, “The American people did not choose this fight. It came to our shores, and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens. After nearly 10 years of service, struggle and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war.”