Bin Laden's death stirs Routt County's veterans

Former service members reflect on news of US killing al-Qaida leader


— Routt County Undersheriff Ray Birch, a Marine Corps veteran who has served three tours of duty in the past decade with the Air Force Reserves, including two tours in Iraq, said Sunday night that the nation’s decade-long search for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden sometimes took a back seat for soldiers, mentally, to the daily duties of deployment in a war zone.

But the unfinished search never fully escaped the mind of any man or woman in the military, he said.

President Barack Obama announced late Sunday that U.S. troops killed bin Laden in a firefight in Pakistan. The news sent seismic impacts across the world, including Routt County.

“If you think in the macro version, the broad version, I think it’s a tremendous morale booster,” said Birch, who is still active in the reserves. “However, when you’re over there, carrying out your day-to-day missions, you’re really not all that focused on Osama bin Laden.”

But killing or capturing bin Laden, Birch said, “was always something that I think every American serving over there, it was always in the back of their mind that this needed to be completed. I would suggest that most of us are very excited, very pleased.”

Birch said he learned of bin Laden’s killing through a phone call from a friend he served with. “In one sense, you feel a sense of justification, you feel a little bit of closure, I suppose, but then on the other hand, being realistic, I think our work is still cut out for us worldwide,” Birch said. “I was pleased that they finally located him and killed him.”

Bin Laden’s death drew a boisterous crowd to the White House in Washington, D.C., and sparked celebrations across the country. Steamboat Springs Police Department Sgt. Sam Silva said local reaction was comparatively quiet.

“I’ve heard some people yelling outside the bar, and there were a couple of fireworks going off over by the high school, but I don’t know if it was related to that or not,” Silva said late Sunday.

He said “nothing large-scale” occurred as the news spread and he received no phone calls about excessive reactions in Steamboat.

Just outside the city, on his family’s ranch on Twentymile Road, veteran and American Legion member Jim Stanko was up late watching the news.

“My reaction is that this is great,” Stanko said. “It’s something that we’ve been sending young men and women over there now for quite a while to get accomplished, and maybe now that we’ve got it done it’ll speed things up and we can get these guys home now.

“I think it gives meaning to all those guys that have been over there and have come back — at least they know their time hasn’t been wasted.”

Stanko said the news created “a moment of relief” that could spark a surge of patriotism in the nation.

“It’s something that we can feel good about,” he said. “It’s something to make us all feel good and feel proud of what our men and women in the service are doing again.”

Veteran, Steamboat resident and former Congressional candidate Bob McConnell said he felt gratitude Sunday night.

“I think we owe a tremendous amount to the American military and the intelligence community that have spent so many years pursuing this objective,” he said. “It’s a mission well done.”

McConnell said that mission will have an unshakeable place in American history.

“It’s hard to celebrate a death, but death is a part of life when you live the kind of life Osama bin Laden chose for himself,” he said. “This is the kind of thing that books will be written about.”

Asked if he had a final thought, McConnell gave a simple answer: “God bless the United States of America.”

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or email


mmjPatient22 5 years, 12 months ago

Yeah, it might have taken almost 10 years.

But we finally got you, you son of a bi!@#%!!!!!

...and too bad they buried you at sea. I know a great number of Americans that would have gladly made a pilgrimage to piss on your grave.


seeuski 5 years, 12 months ago

God bless our Military, great job.

@mmj, No shrines for this terrorist, we have the DNA and photos. Fish need to eat you know.


Brian Kotowski 5 years, 12 months ago

Hopefully, this will erode an enduring modern myth - a myth partly responsible for 9/11: that democracies don't have the stomach for a long fight. Despite deep & contentious domestic divisions, economic strife, etc, we didn't turn tail and retreat into a cocoon. We kept at it and nailed the rat bastard. With any luck, the evil vermin out there are taking notice.

On a side note, there is evidence that the "72 virgins" jive is actually the result of a translation error, and what really awaits the righteous are 72 golden raisins. Osama Been Gone gonna be pissed, if that's the case.


Fred Duckels 5 years, 12 months ago

This is like getting final acceptance on a job that I lost my shirt on. A hollow victory when considering what this guy has cost us. Hopefuly better days are ahead.


trump_suit 5 years, 12 months ago

Have to agree with Fred and Sep here. With two minor exceptions.

1. Bin Laden does not get the virgins, those are reserved for the Jihadists that sacrifice their lives to the cause. Bin Laden ran and hid in Pakistan after the dirty deed was done. There is truly a special place reserved for him.

2.. For the next would be terrorist, we will find you too.

Congrats to the military and intelligence operations, a long outstanding task has been accomplished.


Brian Kotowski 5 years, 12 months ago

Osama bin Fishbait, the noble jihad warrior, used one of his wives as a human shield when the bullets started flying:

He lived his last years paranoid and cut off from the world, and at the end hid behind a woman. I was initially irritated with the buried-at-sea decision, but have changed my tune. No marker, no shrine, just gone. Bravo. I am impressed that our Nobel Peace Prize winning CIC green-lighted an assassination. Nicely done, Mr. President.


sledneck 5 years, 12 months ago

That America has the stomach for a long fight is nothing to be proud of. The point is not to endure endless war, rather it is to have the stomach for bloody, horrific war in order to make war short, rare, unappealing and costly to our enemies. Unfortunately we DO NOT have the stomach for that.

When asked in WWII about his strategy to win the war in the Pacific Admiral Halsey was quoted as saying "Kill Japs, Kill Japs, Kill more Japs, untill Japaneese is spoken ONLY IN HELL" !!!

Now, we ALL know that if a General said that today he would be fired before sundown!

This nation has not won a war since WWII even though we seem to have been almost perpetually engaged since then. I know this will shock and upset many of you in light of todays good news but the war on terror is being lost as we watch. If the American people think this event changes anything strategically on the part of our enemies they are sadly mistaken.

It is my sincere hope that this opportunity will be seized upon to get us the hell out of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the dozens of other countries in which we currently have our national nose stuck. With each passing day it becomes more evident that this nation is a welfare-warfare state.


sledneck 5 years, 12 months ago

Had we such a mindset Bin Laden would have died at Tora-Bora... remember?


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