SMITHVILLE, Mo. — Tuesday marks eight years since a CH-47 Chinook, named Extortion 17, was shot down in Afghanistan.
It’s the deadliest single incident, since the Afghan war started almost 20 years ago. Kearney man and Navy SEAL, Matt Mason was among those who lost their lives that day.
Mason’s friends and family have kept his name alive.
The last seven years, athletes have treaded through the waters at Smithville Lake in the Cowboy Up Triathlon.
It’s a race to honor fallen Navy Seal and Kearney native, Matt Mason. He was killed eight years ago in Afghanistan.
“One of my worst fears when Matt died, was that he might be forgotten. I didn’t want him to be forgotten,” Matt’s mother, Betty Mason said.
Each splash brings back a flood of memories for Mason’s family and friends.
“He always said ‘cowboy up’. It was usually to get you to do something very crazy, or to get you to do something you didn’t think you could do,” Mason’s friend, Jason Key said.
In 2004, Mason suffered severe injuries while deployed in Fallujah. To rehab, he took up triathlons, even getting his friends involved.
“He was like, you guys ought to do a triathlon. The next thing you know, he had talked us into doing a triathlon,” Key said.
Mason sparked his friends’ interest in triathlons. But now, they’ve kept it going. So far, raising thousands of dollars for Maple Woods Community College, Northwest Missouri State, and other military charities.
” He’s proved himself all the way. He’s always had a little more gumption that other people. No quit in him,” Matt’s father, David Mason said.
Life without Mason never gets easier for his friends and family. But there’s peace knowing
“I’m super glad to keep him alive. Be a little piece of him that I can try to be the best I can be,” Matt’s son, Levi Mason said.
Matt Mason was part of the famed SEAL Team Six. They captured Osama Bin Laden in 2011. That was just three months before Mason was killed.