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Scott Helvenston was lost in Iraq on 31 March 2004


We attended Winter Haven High School together and sometimes worked out together and were on the same football team.

Scott went on to become the youngest Navy SEAL ever, at just 17. The same age that some students today say, “We are just kids, leave us alone.” At 17, Scott was no kid. He was a man. And a SEAL.

On 31 March 2004, Scott was on a supply mission in Fallujah blog with Jerry Zovko, Wesley Batalona and Michael Teague. The war was not yet at full steam, but what would happen next set that trajectory.

The four men were ambushed, shot, beaten, burned, and dragged through the streets of Fallujah. Two of their bodies were hanged off a bridge. A photograph of this was awarded a Pulitzer. Anything making Americans look bad was apt for an award.

I flew to Colorado and to Florida for the funerals of my Green Beret teammate Richard Ferguson who had been killed the day before in Samara, and to Scott’s funeral at the Florida National Cemetery.

At Fergy’s funeral in Colorado there was no press. Just Green Berets, family, and friends.


At Scott’s funeral and before and after, vultures in the press were uncountable. I went to Scott’s mom’s home with my good friend Eddy Twyford, Scott’s best friend. We all went to school and worked out together. Eddy was on the same football team.

Eddy was devastated. Press were hounding Eddy and Scott’s mom. It was sickening.

While this was going on, we attacked Fallujah with devastating consequences, and the Abu Ghraib torture and abuse scandal broke in full. All in April 2004.


While many Americans said the Abu Ghraib torture was okay, and they even celebrated it, they were wrong. These were war crimes by any definition, and for nothing positive in return. We got death in return.

Many Americans parroted that no prisoners died. They were wrong. Prisoners were raped, murdered, and abused to the point that this, the photos and videos of Scott and his friends being murdered, and the attack on Fallujah, led to mass recruitment of al Qaeda and other enemies.

April 2004 was a massive inflection point in the war. Countless thousands of Iraqi and Coalition deaths would spinoff from Fallujah and Abu Ghraib.

This was also the first time I started paying serious attention to the war. I had refused to go since the beginning, despite being asked many times by many people, especially my Winter Haven High School friend LTC Rodney Morris who was also in Iraq at that time.

With much prodding from Rodney, I finally went to Iraq and spent more time in combat than probably any writer/photographer/journalist in the war. And then did the same in Afghanistan.

This was all because of Fergy being lost in Samara, Scott in Fallujah, and my close friend Rodney Morris, and that it became obvious that media and the USG had no idea what was going on in Iraq.

Rest in peace Fergy, Scott, and so many others.

Michael Yon

Michael Yon is America's most experienced combat correspondent. He has traveled or worked in 82 countries, including various wars and conflicts.

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