On behalf of the men and women of the 21st Expeditionary Special Tactics Squadron in Afghanistan and Iraq, I am honored to share some words in remembrance of Danny “SZ” Sanchez: son, brother, friend, teammate, warrior, servant, and great American.
Since the first U.S forces set foot on Afghan soil following 9/11, the warriors of Special Tactics have been serving, fighting, and sometimes dying in this conflict against an enemy who seeks to destroy the way of life of all who desire freedom and liberty. Danny was just 14 years old on 9/11, but he knew the history of Special Tactics in this war, and he aspired, as we all do, to live up to the legacy established by those who have gone before us.
Today in Afghanistan, ensuring the responsible employment of airpower has become a top priority for commanders at all levels, and when a Combat Controller steps onto the battlefield, he does so with the knowledge that the success or failure of his actions has potentially strategic consequences. That’s no small load to bear, and we ask young men like Danny Sanchez to carry that load every day. As a 23 year-old Airman on his first deployment, Danny did so flawlessly.
I got to know Danny during the week that we all spent together at Pope prior to deployment. Danny stands out in my mind as a guy who carried himself with confidence and maturity, who always had a smile and a greeting, and who’s infectious personality positively influenced all around him. And anyone who got to know him, soon learned of his love for his mom, Yvette, and his fiancé, Linda—they were never far from his mind. I had not seen Danny since a few days after our arrival in Afghanistan, but I have talked to many guys who did, and by all accounts he was loving life as a special operator.
But Danny Sanchez was much more than an Airman and a Special Operator. He was a warrior-servant of the finest tradition. By volunteering for the Combat Control career field, Danny knew that he was volunteering to place himself in harms way in service to the nation. He did so willingly, and he did not ask for anything in return. He was driven to confront the enemies of our nation face-to-face in the dark of night in far-away places around the world. He was compelled to brave great danger in order to free the oppressed and to ensure that the citizens of our great country do not live in fear of an attack on our soil. Danny Sanchez was a warrior-servant who paid the ultimate price while ensuring that millions of Americans, most of whom will never know the sacrifice he made, can sleep safely in their beds at night and enjoy the freedoms that they too often take for granted. And so I ask the question, “Where do we find men such as this?“
For our fellow warriors in attendance today, rest assured that your Special Tactics and joint SOF brothers on the battlefield in Afghanistan and Iraq have things well in hand. As these words are being read, our teammates are engaged in operations to seek and destroy enemy forces, some in the very region where Danny was killed. So-called experts assert that ten percent of any insurgent movement is comprised of hard-core fighters who cannot be turned and must be killed. The Special Tactics operators here in theater take a particular interest in that demographic group, and we are doing much to eliminate it through the employment of lethal airpower with a level of discrimination and precision that is unmatched in history. We will honor Danny Sanchez through our ruthless pursuit of the enemy—just as he would want and expect us to do.
To Yvette, to Linda, to the rest of Danny’s family, to his teammates, and to his friends, Danny Sanchez set an example of love of life, of warrior ethos, and of selfless service that we would all do well to match. And by striving for the high standard that he set, may we continue to honor the sacrifice that he made. From down range, our thoughts and prayers are with you all as we celebrate his life and mourn the loss of one of our nation’s finest.
First There . . . That Others May Live.
Lt Col Parks Hughes
Commander, 21 ESTS
Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan