Airman From El Paso Died Of Gunshot Wound In Afghanistan

The Department of Defense announced Friday the death of an airman who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Military officials said Senior Airman Daniel R. Sanchez, 23, of El Paso died Sept.16 while conducting combat operations in Oruzgan province, Afghanistan.
He was wounded by enemy fire and subsequently died of a gunshot wound, military officials said.

“This terrible loss is evidence of the ultimate sacrifice our men in the Air Force Special Operations Command make to protect our country and our way of life,” Major Chris Larkin, commander of the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, said in a statement. “Danny was a fine airman and a valuable member of our close community and he will be sorely missed. My deepest sympathies go out to the Sanchez family.”

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Airman killed in firefight led selfless, fearless life

Tattooed on Senior Airman Daniel R. Sanchez's torso was a quote that defined his short life.

Sanchez, 23, an El Paso native killed Thursday during combat operations in Afghanistan, also had colorful stars and planets inked onto his body. But it was the words of former President Theodore Roosevelt that help relatives understand why he put himself in mortal danger thousands of miles from home.

In part, the quote states: "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood ..."

At age 4, Sanchez already was seeking adventure.

"He invented his own scuba gear," said Yvette Duchene, the airman's mother, during a Sunday interview at her East El Paso home. "He put socks on the ends of his feet like flippers. He had a big set of goggles and he had a backpack on his back." 

Pictured left; Yvette Duchene talks about her son, Senior Airman Daniel R. Sanchez who was killed in Afghanistan, as a video plays on You Tube apparently posted by friends of Daniel's. Daniel's younger brother Dakota Duchene is at left.
Jumping off the roof gave him the sensation of flying, relatives said.

One day he appeared wearing a makeshift cape, imitating Darkwing Duck, a favorite Disney cartoon character. When the boy disappeared, a grandmother, Irene Sierra, became suspicious.  "I told (his mother), 'You'd better go check him. I bet he's going to go to the roof,'" Sierra said.

Despite his adventurous nature, he never broke any bones, Duchene said. However, in one family photo, he has a smear of blood on his forehead, which he banged jumping off a wall.

"He was a small Superman," Sierra said.

Sanchez liked to pull his brother and cousins into the excitement as well.

One day, when there apparently was little else to do, he duct-taped his younger brother, Dakota, to a gate, where their mother found him upon her return home. Dakota, now 10, was a willing participant. Duchene laughed and scolded them about damaging the paint.

"Most of it he didn't get in trouble for because of his smile," Dakota said.

Andee Olivares, a cousin who called Sanchez "Baby Daniel," was a few years older and felt responsibility to make sure no one got hurt during those escapades.

"I was picturing us growing old," Olivares said, tears clouding his eyes. "I wanted to meet his kids."

Sanchez liked going to school to play with friends, his mother said, but had trouble studying. He loved science, which was why he tattooed the solar system on his arm.

After graduating from Montwood High School in 2005, he began looking for a job.

When he joined the Air Force at 18, he already was set on becoming an elite warrior. His childhood dreams of flying and scuba diving were fulfilled in the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron. He looked at the military as a career and planned to become an instructor.

"That's my saving grace," Duchene said. "I couldn't imagine him sitting behind a desk."

During a grueling 10-week training in San Antonio, Sanchez called his mother to tell her he would not quit. In the end, he was among eight graduates in a class of about 200 men.

Sanchez's special tactics unit performs duties at the request of the president and the secretary of defense, according to a fact sheet on its website. Its missions include rescue and recovery, battlefield trauma care, direct action and reconnaissance.

Sanchez deployed overseas for the first time in July. He called and e-mailed often, but did not talk about his experiences in Afghanistan, relatives said. During his last call home he told an aunt that he had been wearing the same clothes for the past few days and was tired. A few days earlier, he had assured his mother, "Don't worry, I'm fine."

Duchene said Air Force personnel had not informed her of the circumstances of her son's death. 

According to family, this is the last photo taken of Daniel R. Sanchez

Her 5-foot, 11-inch son was "skinny and scrawny" before he joined the military, Duchene said. But when she hugged him lately, she could feel the hard muscles.

"He was tough," she said. Duchene rolls her eyes when asked about the tattoos adorning his body. He had tried to appease her by inking a message of love for her on his left leg.

Sanchez was proud of the tattoos, including the Roosevelt quote. It proved prophetic.

"The credit belongs to the man ... who spends himself for a worthy cause," the quote continues, "who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

A Web Site by Danny's Mom, Yvette

El Paso airman killed: Montwood grad dies in Afghanistan

El Pasoan Daniel Ray Sanchez, a senior airman in the United States Air Force, died Thursday in combat in Afghanistan, the Department of Defense said Friday.

Sanchez, 23, died after being shot in a firefight, relatives said.

The Defense Department said Sanchez died while conducting combat operations in Oruzgan province. He was assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron.

Sanchez's mother and his aunt flew to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware hoping to bring his body back home today, 9/18/2010.

U.S.-led forces began a key operation Wednesday in the 9-year-old war in the district in south Afghanistan that gave birth to the Taliban.

The offensive to secure Zhari, just west of the city of Kandahar, is part of the last phase of attempting to stabilize the crucial province of Kandahar by the end of this year.

Three battalions of the 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Ky. -- plus Rangers, U.S. Special Forces and Afghan troops -- moved into the insurgent-held "green zone" of Zhari, a strip of farmland that offers cover for guerrilla fighting.

It was not known whether Sanchez was part of the offensive, which came days before today's parliamentary elections. At least 4,800 troops -- half of them American, half Afghan -- are taking part in the operation, military officials said.

The White House plans a December review of its Afghan policy and progress toward its plans to begin withdrawing U.S. troops next July.

Sanchez, who graduated from Montwood High School in 2005, was stationed at Hurlburt Field, Fla. He had been in Afghanistan since June.

He celebrated his 23rd birthday on Aug. 30.

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

Danny Excelled With Enjoying Life!

You know this when looking at the pictures on this page, but it's even more evident when you can watch Danny in action.  There are several videos on this page and they'll give you just a bit of insight to his personality and professionalism.  To the right is a video I found on YouTube and they had removed the music.  I inserted what I think was meant.  
As I enjoyed watching the presentation, I was surprised we shared many of the same pictures and then I saw the collages I made and I felt good.  Just my little donation to a MAN MORE DESERVING.   Danny died as he lived; he enjoyed life on the edge and that's how he passed......

Click above to watch Shaggy Stacking

Senior Airman killed in Afghanistan laid to rest, 100 Hurlburt airmen on hand
EL PASO, Texas — Dark clouds hung over the Franklin Mountains and a soft rain fell at Fort Bliss National Cemetery on Thursday morning when the community said goodbye to a fallen special operations airman from Hurlburt Field.

More than 600 people paid their respects to 23-year-old Senior Airman Daniel R. Sanchez with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, who died Sept. 16 from wounds suffered in a firefight in Afghanistan.

More than 100 Hurlburt airmen wearing red berets attended Sanchez’s memorial service at Cielo Vista Church and his burial. With them was Lt. Gen. Donald Wurster, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command.

At the memorial service, people laughed and cried as pictures from Sanchez’s life flashed on large television screens. His mother’s favorite song, Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance,” played in the background.

A church pastor sang “Wind Beneath My Wings” in honor of Sanchez’s military service.

Sanchez’s mother, Yvette Sierra Duchene, addressed the mourners and read a poem she wrote titled “Red Beret Sea,” about her emotions that followed the news that her son had died in combat.

“I wrote a poem because I wanted to say so many things I didn’t know how to say,” 

After reading the poem, she challenged the visitors:

“I challenge you to live like Daniel lived. It’s not easy because he took it one day at a time. Get up, go to work, put a smile on your face and enjoy every second of your life.”

Pastor Wendell Powers said although he didn’t know Sanchez personally, he learned about him by reading newspaper articles, watching news broadcasts and talking to Sanchez’s family.

“Our beloved Daniel gave his life while fighting to protect our country,” Powers said. “His smile was contagious, his vibrant green eyes captivating.”

At the cemetery, Sanchez’s fellow airmen folded the United States flag that had been draped over his silver casket and presented it to Duchene. She and several others around her began to cry.

“In times likes these it’s OK to cry. It’s OK to hurt,” Powers said.

Two by two, airmen gave one last salute to Sanchez. Some kissed the casket while others left on top of it a silver Combat Controller flash badge that airmen receive when they graduate from combat school.

Once they all said their goodbyes, the airmen dropped to the pavement and did 10 memorial push-ups to honor Sanchez. Duchene rushed towards the street to watch.

Afterwards, she gave several of them a tearful hug.

As a light drizzle fell over El Paso this morning, more than 600 people said goodbye to Senior Airman Daniel R. Sanchez, who was killed in a firefight in Afghanistan a week ago today.

Cielo Vista Church on the Eastside was almost full of friends, relatives and fellow airmen. The airmen traveled from Florida to honor their fallen friend.

Sanchez, 23, an Air Force Special Operations Command Combat Controller, died Sept. 16 at a medical facility in Tarin Kwot, Afghanistan.

Sanchez, a 2005 graduate of Montwood High School, was a member of the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron based in Hurlburt Field, Fla.

His mother, Yvette Sierra Duchene, addressed the mourners during the service.

"I challenge you to live like Daniel lived," Duchene said. "It's not easy because he took it one day at a time. Get up, go to work, put a smile on your face and enjoy every second of your life."

Duchene also read a poem she wrote about her eldest son.

More than 100 airmen from the 23rd squadron attended the service. Among them was Lt. Gen. Donald Wurster, commander of Air Force special operations command.

                 Hurlburt honors Senior Airman Daniel Sanchez at memorial service

HURLBURT FIELD — Senior Airman Daniel Sanchez lived life the way his mother always told him.

“He danced,” Yvette Duchene said after Tuesday’s memorial service for her eldest son. “I always used to tell him life is a dance. Just enjoy it. Words can’t describe how proud I am.”

In a somber memorial service for one of their happiest Combat Controllers, members of the Hurlburt Field’s 23rd Special Tactics Squadron shared how Sanchez danced through their lives.

More than 1,000 people listened in the echoing hangar to accounts of the bold, adventurous 23-year-old from El Paso, Texas. Sanchez died Sept. 16 at a medical facility in Tarin Kwot, Afghanistan, after he was wounded by enemy fire. He was a few weeks into his first deployment.

Twice that Thursday, Sanchez helped convoys under attack by relaying locations for air strikes. He was awarded four posthumous medals Tuesday, including the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star Medal with Valor. The medals were presented to his family.

Master Sgt. Jonathan Gilbert, the 23rd’s team sergeant, remembered Sanchez’s enthusiasm while he trained. Sanchez would come into Gilbert’s office and just sit there with a grin on his face. Gilbert would ask him what he wanted.

“And he would just say ‘Whenever you’re ready, say the word. I’m here whenever you’re ready,’ ” Gilbert recalled.

He said Sanchez will be added to the list of warriors who made the 23rd what it is.

“I’m a firm believer that it’s the man who makes the beret, not the beret that makes the man,” Gilbert said.

Like the airmen who came before him, Sanchez was a strong, capable man who did what he knew was right in his heart, Gilbert said.

In a lighter moment, a letter written by Staff Sgt. Gary Cobb, one of Sanchez’s closest friends, was shared. Cobb is currently deployed.

From taking road trips to asking for special favors, Cobb said Sanchez always managed to talk people into doing what he wanted.

Sanchez once called Cobb to give him and some friends a ride home. Cobb ended the call saying, ‘no’ and Sanchez said ‘okay’ and hung up the phone. When the group asked Sanchez if Cobb was coming, he said, ‘yes.’ Without further coaxing, Cobb reluctantly was on his way within 10 minutes after the call.

“Words cannot begin to describe how much Danny will be missed. Danny was the best friend anyone could have,” Cobb said.

Gilbert said Sanchez was smiling down on everyone. He advised the mourners to live like Danny did.

“Be the man that he became,” Gilbert said. “And then when it gets tough, smile.”

Life is a dance.... Just Dance Danny!
Personnel at Hurlburt Field were reminded, once again today, about the realities of the war on terrorism.

The base held a memorial service Tuesday morning for Senior Airman Danny Sanchez, who was killed earlier this month in Afghanistan. Those close to Sanchez say he died doing what he loved.

Danny’s mother remembers the words of wisdom she gave her son as he was growing up.

"I always used to tell him to dance, and I always used to tell him that life is a dance and just dance" says Yvette Dunche.

Senior Airman Danny Sanchez was remembered Tuesday for his big smile and playful spirit.
The 23-year old from El Paso, Texas was killed in combat on September 16th.

Master Sgt. Don Stevens was very close to Danny and says his untimely death will leave heartache to all who knew him.

"The way he lived was--he's an awesome operator and a good friend. He always had a smile on his face, but he was there to do the job, and that includes laying his own life on the line", Stevens says.

Sanchez was a Combat Controller and assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron at Hurlburt Field and died supporting "Operation Enduring Freedom".

"I knew he was taking a risk. I asked him not to do it initially, but when I would see him… and hearing his stories made everything better for me. I found comfort in knowing he was where he needed to be" his mother says.

He leaves behind his family, friends and fiancé--but also his memories.

"He always kept a smile, always kept a positive attitude and he was a bright light for all his teammates" Stevens says.

He gave the ultimate sacrifice and left his legacy in the hearts of those who loved him.

His mother wants him to know he will always be remembered.

"I’m proud, I’m very proud, I used to always tell him, I’m very proud of you... Keep dancing son."

Senior Airman Danny Sanchez was assigned to Hurlburt Field in 2008 shortly after he qualified as a Combat Controller.

10/1/2010 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- When one of your own falls to enemy fire, it hits everyone in the family like a gut check. Make no mistake, the special tactics Airmen of Air Force Special Operations Command are family.

Most of the time, these quiet professionals spend their days readying for war - honing their bodies and minds for their next deployment. But when one of their brothers is wounded or killed in action, they rally en masse to serve their fallen brother's family and render honor to their dead. That's what happened last week when the special operations community lost one of their own.
Senior Airman Daniel Sanchez, 23, was a Combat Controller in the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron family. In July, he arrived in Afghanistan's Uruzgan Province for his first deployment. He served as a joint terminal attack controller assigned to a U.S. Army special forces team.

He loved his job. He was good at it -- calling in close-air support for the team and their Afghanistan National Army partner forces, he leveraged air assets to provide early warning, protect friendly forces and prevent enemy ambush. In five short weeks of deployment, he'd already been in five combat operations.

On Sept. 16, 2010, his team and their Afghanistan National Army partner forces were providing security for a national election polling site in the vicinity of Kajran District. Shortly after Airman Sanchez' team arrival, they came under fire. An enemy insurgent who had infiltrated the ANA partner force shot and killed the 23-year-old Combat Controller. An ANA soldier subsequently shot and killed the enemy fighter.
When news of Danny's death reached the men of the mighty two-three, their focus, their mission, was taking care of family.

They marshaled their forces to travel to Danny's hometown of El Paso, Texas, to attend to Danny's grieving family and bury their brother in arms. Simultaneously, they planned a reverent memorial service to honor Danny's service and uplift his memory.

More than 500 Airmen packed into Freedom Hangar at Hurlburt Field, Fla., for the memorial service Sept. 28.

A pair of combat boots stood empty in front of an inverted M-4 rifle topped with a Kevlar helmet. The monument was flanked on the stage by shadow boxes adorned with memorabilia. Overlooking these silent inanimate tributes, an immense U.S. flag stood vigil looking out over a sea of blue uniforms and red berets.

Danny Sanchez joined his brothers who had given their last full measure in service to our nation: John Chapman, Scott Sather, Captains Derek Argel and Jeremy Fresques, Will Jefferson, Staff Sgts. Casey Crate and Tim Davis, and Senior Airman Adam Servais.

During the ceremony, Airman Sanchez was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Valor, the Purple Heart Medal, the Air Force Combat Action Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon with gold border.

It was not easy, but one by one, red beret wearing men took the stage to face a teary-eyed audience to offer testimony and tribute.

"Every time, Special Tactics has wrapped our arms around the family of our fallen brother and given them the support they needed to endure this hardship," said Maj. Chris Larkin, 23rd STS commander. "Each time the mighty warriors in the two-three have come together with incredible poise and strength.

"I think that strength emanates from the tight knit family of Special Tactics and AFSOC and it has enabled the family and our unit to endure these losses and emerge stronger and more capable. I know that today is no different."

The major continued, emotionally moved by the outpouring of support, encouraging everyone with his reverent words.

"Daniel is physically gone, but, because he was a warrior and a Combat Controller, his memory will never be lost," he said. "Let us remember Daniel and cherish the memories we share for having had the opportunity to know, work with and befriend a guy like Danny.
His ever-present smile, his positive attitude and the influence he had on those around him are the things that I will remember."

Staff Sgt. Dale Young, a Combat Controller with the 23rd STS, read a letter from Lt. Col. Parks Hughes, Danny's deployed commander at the 21st Expeditionary Special Tactics Squadron.

"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," Colonel Hughes said.

He recognized the priority role Combat Controllers fulfill in the responsible employment of airpower.

"That's no small load to bear, and we ask young men like Danny Sanchez to carry that load every day," he said. "As a 23-year-old Airman on his first deployment, Danny did so flawlessly."

From Colonel Hughes perspective, Danny 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 harm's 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."

The colonel posed a simple question in his letter, "Where do we find men such as this?"
Only in America.

Note: One day after Airman Sanchez' memorial service, Air Force Special Operations Command lost another young warrior to enemy fire. A 21st Special Tactics Squadron Combat Controller, Senior Airman Mark Forester was killed in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan, Sept.29.

       Senior Airman Daniel Ray Sanchez Memorial Scholarship    
SrA Daniel Ray Sanchez Memorial Scholarship, sponsored by the “Danny Ray Sanchez Foundation”, recognizes the achievements of a high-school senior who has taken leadership roles in ROTC or in School / Community events. One scholarship will be awarded this spring to a female or male senior planning to pursue a two- or four-year degree at a University or College or enlist in a branch of the Military.

Funds raised will be awarded to two or more High School Seniors who earn the Daniel Ray Sanchez Memorial Scholarship.  (Amount of the scholarships will be determined upon funding received.)

I am so eager to help our students as they pursue their dreams.  I would love to be able to give back to a community that showed me so much love and support.  With your help I feel that this dream will become a reality.  We have the freedom to pursue higher education and I feel we do so because of heroes like my son, SrA Daniel Ray Sanchez and all the other service men and women who have so bravely served this country.

Thank you for your time and support of this event.  Please feel free to contact me if I can be of further assistance to you.

Danny Ray Sanchez Foundation
Owner Yvette Duchene
Gold Star Mother
12541 Angie Bombach
El Paso, TX  79928
(915) 504-0298                                       Visit our webpage