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Blanding native and Navy SEAL dies in Afghanistan
A Blanding native was one of 30 American service members who died when their helicopter was shot down during a rescue mission this weekend in Afghanistan.
Navy SEAL Jason Workman, 33, was aboard a Chinook helicopter that was shot down about 60 miles from Kabul, friends of Workman's family confirmed.
"They're just devastated, but they're so proud," said San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge, longtime friend of the family. Workman's parents traveled Sunday to Virginia to join his wife and 21-month-old son as they await the return of his body.
Workman, 33, grew up in Blanding and joined the Navy eight years ago, Eldredge said.
Workman had returned from an LDS Church mission and announced, "I'm going to be a Navy SEAL," Eldredge recalled. "We all [said], 'If anyone can do it, you can.'"
Two years later, he joined the elite team and has served several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Every time he came back, his unit wanted to return," Eldredge said. "He really wanted to serve."
Workman's goals were part of a family tradition, said Blanding Mayor Toni Turk. Workman's older brother is a West Point graduate, and his younger brother is a Blanding police officer.
"It's a very patriotic, very service-oriented family," said Turk, who met with Workman's parents shortly after they learned of his death Saturday morning.
Growing up in Blanding, Workman was a high school sports star, Turk said. He graduated from San Juan High School in 1997. Workman returned to his hometown each year, Eldredge said. During his latest visit, he led training sessions with local law enforcement and planned to provide more training during a visit he had scheduled for this fall, he said.
As word of Workman's death spread Saturday and Sunday, flags appeared all over Blanding, Eldredge said.
"Everybody with a flag pole has the flag half-staff," Eldredge said. "Folks around town consider him a hero."
The heroics of Workman's final mission came into focus Sunday with reports that the helicopter crash — the deadliest single loss for U.S. forces in the decadelong war in Afghanistan — occurred during a rescue mission.
Workman will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Turk said. The Blanding City Council will discuss a memorial to Workman at its meeting Tuesday, Turk said. Workman is the third Blanding native to die in combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.