Green Forest SEAL killed in Afghanistan
GREEN FOREST -- Flags are flying at half-staff this week as a community mourns the loss of one of its own.
Navy Master Chief Tommy Ratzlaff, a 1995 Green Forest High School graduate, was killed in a Chinook helicopter crash in Afghanistan last week.
The Navy SEAL was among the 38 that were on board. The group had just completed a rescue mission and was shot down by insurgent fire.
Ratzlaff, 34, joined the Navy out of high school in 1995 and went on to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a Navy Seal.
"From the time he was in elementary school he talked about being a Navy SEAL," his sister Julie Adams remembered.
He leaves behind his family here, she said, and a wife and children in Virginia Beach, Va., along with an unborn daughter who is expected to arrive in November.
Adams released this statement on behalf of the Ratzlaff family:
"My family is grieving, not only for our loss of a son, brother, father, uncle, husband, nephew and friend -- but grieving with the other families who had loved ones give their lives for the freedom and rights enjoyed in our country," she said.
"We are proud and thankful of all the servicemen who put their own lives in danger daily to protect us.
"Tom would have grateful for the outpouring of love, support and prayers for his family, but would want the focus to remain on the cause for which he made this sacrifice -- not the sacrifice itself.
"As a Navy SEAL team member, my brother was trained to keep a low profile and just do his job.
"We are proud of him, the life he lived, the accomplishments he had, and the ideals he stood for.
"He did what he loved and died defending those who loved him."
He will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Gov. Mike Beebe has said that both U.S. and Arkansas flags will be lowered to honor him on that day.
A memorial service will follow in Green Forest at a later date.
Memorial donations can be made to the Ratzlaff Memorial Scholarship fund at First National Bank of Green Forest.