Sisterhood of SEAL Wives Rushes to Aid of Widows

PHOTO: Seal Team Six Mourn Loss of Service Members
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The wives of Navy SEALS are rallying around one another, sharing support for the widows of the 22 SEALs who died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

They also share the trepidation for those waiting to hear which husbands will be deployed to replace those who have fallen.

While the SEALs are known for their courage and toughness, their wives, mothers and fiances are displaying some that same grit.

"He was a fabulous son to his parents and a great big brother, and to me, the love of my life," Kimberly Vaughn, wife of slain SEAL Aaron Vaughn, told ABC News through tears.

Aaron Vaughn -- a 30-year-old father of two, with a newborn daughter he had been with for just two weeks before heading back overseas -- had volunteered to return to combat, his wife said.

Kimberly Vaughn, a former NFL cheerleader, met her husband when she was performing with United Service Organizations Inc.

When the doorbell rang on Saturday, and she saw the men in uniform, she says she fell to her knees.

"The energy, everything just drops out of you. I just remember saying, 'No, no,'" she said. "His last words to me were 'I love you, I'll talk to you later.' And one day in heaven we will."

SEAL Wives Rally Around the Widows

The wives and mothers of Navy SEAL operating base Dam Neck, an air station near Virginia Beach, began their grim vigil when news broke that the Taliban had shot down a helicopter rushing to the aid U.S. soldiers. The crash claimed the lives of 30 U.S. troops, 22 of them Navy SEALs.

"You almost turn yourself off emotionally when things like this happen," said the wife of a SEAL who spoke to ABCNews.com on condition of anonymity to protect her husband and her family. "You just get to work. Now this has happened so you go into robot mode -- who needs what and what do we need to do."

The possibility of catastrophic news comes with the territory when women say "I do" and marry a SEAL. They cope with that as best they can.

The wife who spoke to ABCNews.com said she doesn't ask her husband a lot of questions because "It's not fun to be told I can't hear something." Instead, she said, she does "a lot of talking to my mom."

While the SEALs have not been officially identified, some of their names have made public by their families. A sampling of this handful shows what sorrow there is for their families.

Kevin Houston, 36, of Chesapeake, Va., was married and had three children.

Fellow SEAL Matt Mason was married, had two children and his wife is pregnant with their third child.

SEAL Michael Strange of Mayfair, Pa., was only 25, but was engaged to be married.

Others, like Jon Tumilson, of Rockford, Iowa, were single, but the distress was no less for their mothers.

The wives of Dam Neck immediately took their own actions, making sure no family was alone and without help.

The protocol for receiving the bodies at Dover Air Base was reviewed with the awful warning that the explosion and fire left the bodies too badly damaged to be viewed.

Some wives have moved in with friends to make their homes available to the extended families of the dead who are assembling at the base for funerals, and spare those families the cost and inconvenience of hotels.

Women on the base are cooking for the affected families, babysitting, making airport runs to pick up arriving family members, even doing the laundry for distraught women who have lost their husbands.

Amanda Justus, 28, organized a fundraiser in conjunction with the gym CrossFit to help the families of the fallen. People are encouraged to donate $31, then gather for a workout to promote camaraderie.

"I have friends who have lost spouses," said Justus, a CrossFit gym manager from Virginia Beach. "It's a small community. If I were in their position I would assume they would step forward to support me."

The website, 31heroes.com, went live Sunday and Justus says they have already seen a big response from the public and other companies too.

"These are all men who died protecting all of us so it's only right that we help take care of their families," she said.

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