Thanksgiving is a joyous holiday for most Americans because it gives us a chance to see our loved ones, enjoy each other’s company around a table of great food and give thanks for our many blessings. A four day break from the demands of work for rest and relaxation are always appreciated, too.
This year two families were not able to enjoy Thanksgiving because they lost their sons, husbands and fathers on the battlefields of Iraq and Syria in what is now the longest war in American history.
Both men were veterans of numerous deployments to the region and were members of the elite EOD community. Chief Petty Officer Jason Finan, 34, of Imperial Beach, California was a member of EOD Unit 3 in Coronado and Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott Dayton, 42, of Woodbridge , Virginia was assigned to EOD Unit 2 in Virginia Beach, Virginia but had previously served with EOD Unit 1 in Coronado.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal units have been at the forefront of this war since the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003 when improvised explosive devices (IEDs) became the weapon of choice for the Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIS rather than conventional set battles. Over the last 14 years 133 members of EOD units have lost their lives saving their fellow soldiers and innocent civilians from these cowardly but highly lethal devices. Every time our EOD teams have figured out how to defeat these devices, the enemy has come up with new and different counter-measures, which explains why they are called “improvised” explosive devices. The Hurt Locker, a film directed by Kathryn Bigelow, won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2010, eloquently and graphically portrayed the extreme danger that EOD teams faced in the early stages of the Iraq war.
In its eulogy of Jason Finan, the San Diego Union-Tribune accurately noted that “the explosive ordnance disposal community is renowned throughout the military both for the bravery of its teams and the diversity of its members–techs from the Marine Corps, Navy, Army and Air Force train at the same schools and often serve together in combat.”
Jason Finan and Scott Dayton were both remarkable and highly decorated members of the United States Navy: Dayton joined the Navy in 1993 and had served his country for 23 years; Finan enlisted in 2003 and had served 13 years.
Jason died in Northern Iraq on October 20th while serving as a combat advisor to the Iraqi forces battling to re-take Mosul, a city the size of Chicago and the second largest city in Iraq. Scott died on Thanksgiving Day near Ayn Issa, 35 miles north of Raqqa,Syria ISIS capital. Both died from IEDs that detonated. Dayton was the first US service member killed in Syria fighting ISIS.
There are now 300 American troops in Syria providing assistance to allied rebel groups against ISIS, between 4500 and 5000 American troops in Iraq assisting the Iraqis retake ISIS enclaves and over 10,000 of our troops still in Afghanistan fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Jason left behind his wife Charisa and their seven year old son Christopher. Scott leaves his wife and parents to carry on his legacy. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers and don’t forget the sacrifices still being made in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria every day by our brave and dedicated troops and their families waiting on the home front for their return.
Now more than ever, we need to embrace and support our warrior families. Neither their service nor the sacrifices their families make will end in our lifetimes.
If you want to do something that would really help the EOD community, please consider a donation to the EOD Warrior Foundation (www.eodwarriorfoundation.org) which provides sustained financial assistance and emotional support to the families of our fallen heroes, including scholarships for their children. — Jim