Pictured is Kevin Houston who was among the 30 U.S. military members who died in a helicopter crash Saturday. Photo courtesy of the Houston family via the Mercury News
Pictured is Kevin Houston who was among the 30 U.S. military members who died in a helicopter crash Saturday. Photo courtesy of the Houston family via the Mercury News

Two Bay Area SEALs were among those killed this weekend in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

 

NPR ran a moving obituary about 36-year-old San Jose native Kevin Houston last night.  The San Jose Mercury News also reports Houston knew for a long time that he wanted to be a SEAL:

Some 25 years ago, a fifth-grade teacher in Massachusetts asked student Joe Kennedy to greet a new transfer student from San Jose. The California kid, Kevin Houston, walked up to Kennedy and said: “Hi, I’m Kevin. I’m going to be a Navy SEAL.”

Houston was born to be a member of the military’s most elite squad, overcoming a series of hurdles that would have made a lesser man falter, his friends and family recalled Monday.

A Napa County resident from Angwin was also killed in the crash.   His grandfather Carlyle Benson told the San Francisco Chronicle that 28-year-old Darrik Benson joined the SEALs after graduating from St. Helena High School.

Carlyle Benson said his grandson was “a wonderful guy,” always outgoing and fun to be around. He said he used to tell his Navy SEAL buddies that he learned to swim when his grandmother pushed him into the pool as a joke.

“He said he learned the hard way, and he’s done some tremendous swimming since then,” Carlyle Benson said, chuckling softly. “We’re proud of him.”

Darrik Benson had recently earned a commercial pilot’s license and was considering flying airplanes after finishing his military service, his grandfather said.

Another SEAL from Northern California was killed in the crash as well. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports Jesse Pittman was a firefighter from Willits, CA.

Pittman graduated from Willits High School in 2002 and worked two seasons as a seasonal firefighter for Cal Fire before joining the Navy, according to friends of the family. He was smart, hardworking and determined, according to those who knew him.

“He was just a great kid,” said Chris Wilkes, a family friend.

Pittman had dreamed of becoming a member of the SEALs and quit his job at Cal Fire to pursue it, Wilkes said.

Author

Rachel Dornhelm

Rachel Dornhelm has worked as a reporter, editor and producer in public radio for the last twelve years. She got her start in New York City at WNYC and went on to work with the national business program Marketplace, WBUR’s “On Point” and KQED News in San Francisco. Her work has been honored by the LA Press Club and the SF-Peninsula Press Club.

Rachel has a BA with honors in anthropology from Rice University and did graduate work at NYU.

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