NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Elite Navy SEALs member Aaron Carson Vaughn had asked the military to return him to combat and shipped out just six weeks before he was killed when a U.S. military helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan, killing 38, including 22 SEALs.
Vaughn's grandmother, Geneva Vaughn of Union City, Tenn., told The Associated Press on Saturday her grandson, a Tennessee native, had wanted to be a SEAL since he was a child and returned to combat just two weeks after his 2-month-old daughter was born this summer.
"Aaron was a Christian and he's with Jesus today," Vaughn said. "He told us when we saw him last November that he wasn't afraid because he knew where he was going, and he said, `Granny, don't worry about me.'
"He was a tough warrior, but he was a gentle man."
The 30-year-old Vaughn was one of 30 American service members, a civilian interpreter and seven Afghan commandos who were killed when their CH-47 Chinook crashed early hours Saturday in eastern Afghanistan. Vaughn and 21 others killed were members of the elite team known for killing Osama Bin Laden earlier this year, though military officials said none of the SEALs killed were involved in that operation.
He leaves behind his wife, Kimberly, and two children, 2-year-old son Reagan and 2-month-old daughter Chamberlyn. Vaughn had been based in Virginia Beach, Va., and had also seen postings in Coronado, Calif., Guam, Germany, Iraq and Afghanistan, his grandmother said.
Geneva Vaughn says Aaron Vaughn joined the SEALs straight out of boot camp and was already a decorated fighter when he was asked by the Navy to return stateside to become an instructor. But he chafed under the assignment and applied to SEAL Team 6 after two years, earning his way onto the squad in 2010. Geneva Vaughn said he was one of the few SEALs who performed well enough to get his name on the "First Time Every Time Wall," a benchmark of honor for the few SEALs who pass every test on their first try.
He won multiple military medals, Vaughn said.
"The last time he was in Afghanistan he received a medal because his team was under fire and couldn't see the enemy. He left the ones he was with and drew fire and killed the enemy to save the men he was with. We couldn't tell any of this stuff when he was alive because it was a secret."
Vaughn said her grandson met his wife, a former Washington Redskins cheerleader, while she was on tour entertaining groups in Guam and they married about four years ago.
Aaron Vaughn grew up in rural Obion County outside of Union City in northwestern Tennessee and briefly moved with his parents to Stuart, as a teen. He returned to Obion County to finish his senior year of high school, then attended two years of college before joining the Navy.
"He was doing what he loved to do and he was a true warrior," Geneva Vaughn said