Will Thomas, 13, of McLean, Va., has used
his passion for shooting baskets to raise money for survivors of
special operations service members killed in an Aug. 6, 2011,
helicopter crash in Afghanistan. Courtesy photo, August 13. 2012
WASHINGTON, Aug. 13, 2012 – One of the most tragic moments of the
war in Afghanistan has inspired an American teenager to honor the
memory of 30 fallen service members and to help their families -- by
Will Thomas, a 13-year-old boy from McLean,
Va., has spearheaded “Operation Hawkeye” in an effort to raise money
to help the families of fallen special operators -- particularly, 30
American troops killed in an Aug. 6, 2011, CH-47 Chinook helicopter
crash that also claimed the lives of eight Afghan forces and a
military working dog.
U.S. investigators concluded that a
Taliban insurgent fired a rocket-propelled grenade that brought down
the chopper as it attempted to land in Afghanistan's Wardak
Will recalled hearing about the crash from his
“I was just outside shooting baskets with my dad ...
when it happened. ... “I was just thinking ‘Wow, that's a horrible
Struck by the great loss of life, the 8th grader felt
a strong urge to do something to help the grieving families' healing
process, in part because one of those left a widow is a fellow
Mclean native whose husband, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jonas B. Kelsall, was
killed in the crash.
“My dad and I were talking, and I said
‘I'd really like to do something about this,'” the teenager said.
“He [asked], ‘Well what would you like to do?' and we thought about
His father suggested shooting baskets, he said, because
that's what they were doing when they got the news. “So we just
thought if there was a way we could work that into help, that would
be great,” Will said.
He didn't have to go far to start Operation Hawkeye,
shooting baskets in his driveway in exchange for donations
to the families. Will didn't stop until he had raised nearly
$50,000 for the Navy SEAL Foundation.
He didn't have
to do anything special to prepare for his task, he said, but
he admitted with a laugh he was plenty sore afterward,
having shot 20,317 baskets. “I shoot a lot, but, obviously,
it was more than I usually do,” he said.
He named his
effort Operation Hawkeye after the loyal pet of one of the
victims. “There was a dog of one of the fallen soldiers from
Aug. 6,” he said. “At the soldier's funeral, the dog refused
to leave the casket. So when I saw the article about it, I
thought that would be a cool name for it.”
set this year's Operation Hawkeye goal at $310,000, an
amount he hopes to raise from donations and pledges. “There
were 31 members of the team that fell – 30 members and one
highly trained dog. So we just added the zeroes to it,
because it was a significant number.”
from his last fundraiser, Will said he feels encouraged and
intends to continue to raise money in honor of the fallen
troops “as long as people are willing to donate.”
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
Comment on this article