May 4, 2011

Navy SEAL team likely to be honored in secret

Julie Watson, The Associated Press

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In other cases, the government has chosen not to honor service members of covert operations until the mission has been declassified.

Last year, Obama posthumously recognized Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Richard L. "Dick" Etchberger for his courage under fire in 1968 during a mission on a remote Laotian mountain that was kept secret for decades because the U.S. wasn't supposed to have troops in the officially neutral Southeast Asian country. Etchberger was awarded the nation's highest military award, the Medal of Honor, after the government declassified his mission.

Sunday's raid was one of a countless number that U.S. special operation forces have carried out in their pursuit of terrorists from Africa to the Middle East. While the SEALs were applauded for bin Laden's death, they've also been told their mission is not over.

The SEALs involved in Sunday's mission were back in the U.S. at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington for debriefing on the raid, lawmakers said after meeting with CIA Director Leon Panetta.

Craig Sawyer, a former Navy SEAL, speculated the team will likely be invited to the White House to meet the president and attend a private, small ceremony acknowledging their grand achievement.

"The operators of their unit and they themselves will know about it, but nobody else will," he said. "That's just the nature of the business."

Many Americans, like Omar Quintero, a San Diego contractor, said it's a shame the nation cannot give them the thanks they deserve.

"It would be very exciting to see who they are," the 34-year-old father of two said. "Then we could treat them like celebrities. The guy who killed him (bin Laden) would be like our Superman."

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