SEAL with ties to Arlington dies in Afghanistan crash

08/07/2011 10:57 PM

10/09/2011 11:19 AM

Editor's note: The report was originally published in the Star-Telegram on Aug. 6, 2011.

Matt Mills made faces at his family and friends, joked around with everyone and possessed enough humor to fill Texas.

The 35-year-old also loved his wife and children and being a member of one of the most elite military units in this country: the Navy SEALs.

He died this weekend as a member of that unit. Mills was one of the 30 American service members killed when their helicopter was shot down near Kabul, Afghanistan, in a mission to aid Army Rangers who had come under fire.

"I just want people to remember the sacrifice he gave for this country," said cousin Tina Mills Cunningham of Arlington. "He was always giving to other people. He knew quite a few people."

That was evident from the outpouring of sympathy Sunday for the Mills family on Facebook.

Mills, who was married in April, was based in Virginia Beach, Va. He had spent his childhood in Tulsa and attended Arlington schools.

He had three children from a previous marriage -- two sons, Cash and Bryce, and a daughter, Zoe.

"His dad was in construction, and they moved a lot, but I remember those visits to Tulsa and Arlington," Cunningham said.

Cunningham said Mills followed a family tradition: a military career. Mills had been a Navy SEAL for 14 years.

He was a member of the SEAL unit that killed Osama bin Laden more than three months ago, but none who died Saturday took part in the bin Laden mission.

This weekend, the rescue team had subdued attackers pinning down the Rangers and they were departing in their Chinook helicopter when the aircraft was apparently hit.

The death toll included 22 SEALs, three Air Force combat controllers, and a dog handler and his dog.

Cunningham said she believes that her cousin had been in Afghanistan for on a few weeks because he had been on his honeymoon just over a month ago.

Cunningham said that she asked about his tours whenever he was home, but he never talked much about them.

"He kept saying he just had a job to do," she said.

As for why he became a SEAL, Cunningham isn't quite sure.

"I don't know why Matt became a Navy SEAL other than the fact that he was always up for a challenge," she said. "And he loved his country."

This report includes material from The Associated Press.

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