DEERFIELD BEACH, FL, USA U.S. Navy PO2, SDVT ONE, PEARL HARBOR, HI ASABADAD, AFGHANISTAN 06/28/2005
James Suh was part of a close-knit group of friends who had grown up together from their early days of elementary school. The boys were like brothers, growing up playing GI Joes, skateboarding and in general chasing one adventure after another. When one member of this group, James’s best friend, died tragically in an accident in his early teens, James decided to change his middle name to take on his friend’s name, Erik, as his own.
In the years that passed after Erik’s death, James stayed in close contact with Erik’s mother, never forgetting Mother’s Day or letting her know that she was in his thoughts. James was nothing if not a loyal friend and someone who always stood ready to encourage, defend or comfort those he loved.
Petty Officer Second Class James Suh, 28, was one of 16 troops killed when a MH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005 on a daring daylight mission to reinforce an outnumbered four-man SEAL reconnaissance squad in 8,000-foot mountainous terrain. The Chinook helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in the Hindu Kush mountain range in Kunar Province during Operation Red Wing.
Academics were a priority for Suh at Deerfield Beach High School, but he also starred on the tennis and swim teams. He attended many classes for advanced and gifted students. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Statistics at the University of Florida in 1999. Although he wanted to become a veterinarian, he instead joined the Navy in January 2001 and became a SEAL. After basic airborne training in Georgia, and SEAL training in Coronado and Panama City Beach, Fla., he joined SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team One at Pearl Harbor on December 1, 2002.
James was always very close to his family. Before being deployed on his first mission in February of 2005, James prepared and hid birthday gifts for his father who would be turning 65 in May and whom he had taken into his home in Hawaii. On Solomon’s birthday, James managed to call from Afghanistan and directed his father to a concealed corner of his room where several gifts had laid wrapped, unnoticed for months.
A SEAL teammate described the intellectually curious and humorous sides of Suh: He was “perpetually inquisitive” and “always had a question to ask,” as well as a “dry sense of humor that made everybody laugh.” Suh volunteered for the mission to rescue four SEALs trapped by insurgent fire, including his SEAL classmate, Matthew Axelson. “Jim loved his teammates and risked his life to save them.” Axelson, LT Michael Murphy, and Danny Dietz fought on courageously and were killed in the firefight against overwhelming Taliban forces. Murphy was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
James Erik Suh was awarded the Bronze Star with V device for Valor and Purple Heart posthumously for his actions.