LITTLETON, Colo. (NNS) -- Gunner's Mate 2nd Class (SEAL) Danny P. Dietz was honored July 4, by his hometown of Littleton, Colo., with the dedication of a larger-than-life bronze statue in a park near his childhood family home. Dietz was killed by enemy forces during a combat mission in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005, as part of Operation Red Wing.
The dedication ceremony speakers included the Secretary of the Navy, The Honorable Donald C. Winter; Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command, Rear Admiral Joseph Kernan; United States Congressman Tom Tancredo; Medal of Honor recipient, Petty Officer (SEAL) Mike Thornton; and Mrs. Tiffany Bitz, Dietz' sister. The master of ceremonies was Littleton Mayor Jim Taylor.
"(Danny)...leaves behind a legacy that inspires us today and serves as a shining example of heroism and courage for future generations," said Secretary Winter during his remarks. "Years from now, people will look upon this statue and be reminded of the heroism of a son of Colorado whose country he was proud to serve."
An estimated three thousand people crowded into the new park to honor Dietz under a warm morning sun which raised temperatures to a near 90 degrees, but even the heat could not deter the people of Littleton.
"I am so proud of the people of Littleton for the way they have supported the Dietz family and this sculpture," said Taylor.
Through private donations, the people of Littleton raised more the $42,000 to pay for the sculpture while the city provided the land and surrounding landscaping.
"As a boy, Danny used to play right here in this neighborhood," said Cindy Dietz, Danny's mother. "When people come down to this park, I want them to remember Danny and all our service men and women who give so much and ask so little. I hope his statue reminds people of the sacrifices our military makes everyday."
The bronze 1.3:1 scale statue of the Heritage High School graduate was cast at a foundry in Loveland, Colo., by sculptor Robert Henderson. The statue is based on one of the last photos taken of Dietz just before his fatal mission, showing him in a crouched position, dressed in full combat gear and holding his M-4 rifle on one knee.
"Petty Officer Dietz gave his life selflessly serving our Nation. On behalf of the United States Navy SEALs, we are proud to call him brother and will forever honor his warrior spirit and sacrifice." said Kernan. "This statue is more than a tribute to one man, it is a lasting reminder of the honor, courage and commitment Danny and all of his teammates embody."
Dietz was born on Jan 26 1980 in Aurora, Colo. He enlisted in the Navy in 1999, earned his SEAL trident in 2001 and was subsequently assigned to SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team Two. In April 2005, Dietz deployed with his Special Reconnaissance element to Afghanistan to support Naval Special Warfare Squadron TEN and the prosecution of the Global War on Terrorism.
In June 2005, deep behind enemy lines east of Asadabad in the Hindu Kush of Afghanistan, his four-man Navy SEAL team was conducting a reconnaissance mission at the unforgiving altitude of approximately 10,000 feet. These SEALs, LT Michael Murphy, Petty Officer Matthew Axelson, Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell and Dietz, had a vital task. Their mission objective was to capture or kill a key militia leader. The mission was compromised when they were spotted by anti-coalition sympathizers, who reported their presence and location to the Taliban.
A fierce gun battle erupted between the four SEALs and a much larger enemy force of anti-coalition militia. The enemy had the SEALs outnumbered. They also had terrain advantage. They launched a well-organized, three-sided attack on the SEALs. Three of the four SEALs were wounded. The fight relentlessly continued as the overwhelming militia forced them deeper into a ravine.
Approximately 45 minutes into the fight, Murphy, the officer in charge of the element, made contact with the Quick Reaction Force in Bagram Air Base for fire support and assistance. An MH-47 Chinook helicopter, with eight additional SEALs and eight Army NightStalkers aboard, was sent in as part of an extraction mission to pull out the four embattled SEALs. The MH-47 was escorted by heavily-armored, Army attack helicopters. As the Chinook raced to the battle, a rocket-propelled grenade struck the helicopter, killing all 16 men aboard.
Despite this terrible loss, the four SEALs remaining on the ground continued to fight. Under a withering assault of machine gunfire and rocket propelled grenades, the SEALs maneuvered for position and fought for the lives of their teammates. Their heroic actions cost three of them their lives and Luttrell was blasted unconscious down into a ravine by a rocket propelled grenade. Luttrell regained consciousness and was able to evade the enemy, befriended by a local villager and recovered by American forces a few days later.
This was the worst single-day U.S Forces death toll since Operation Enduring Freedom began over five years ago. It was the single largest loss of life for Naval Special Warfare since the World War II Normandy invasion.
Dietz was awarded the Navy Cross for "extraordinary heroism in actions against the enemy."
According to the award citation, "Operating in the middle of an enemy controlled area, in extremely rugged terrain...Petty Officer Dietz fought valiantly against a numerically superior and positionally advantaged enemy force... defending his teammates and himself in a harrowing gunfight, until he was mortally wounded."
Dietz's wife, Maria Dietz, accepted the posthumously awarded Navy Cross from the Navy Secretary during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., in September 2006. The Navy Cross is second only to the Congressional Medal of Honor in terms of military award precedence.
U.S. Navy SEALS are the maritime component of U.S. Special Operations Command and the Navy's special operations force. The SEALs take their name from the elements in which they operate - sea, air and land. In addition to being experts in special reconnaissance and direct action missions -- the key skill sets needed to combat terrorism - their unique stealth and clandestine methods of operation enable them to conduct multiple missions against enemy forces, ashore or afloat, that larger forces cannot approach undetected.
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