However, our story of the year is a story that united and inspired San Juan County. Our story of the year is the death of Special Forces Sgt Aaron Butler of Monticello.
Butler, age 27, was killed on August 16 when he entered a booby-trapped building that exploded while his group was fighting the Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan.
San Juan County – and it seemed the entire State of Utah – honored Aaron and mourned the loss of a hero. It was both heartbreaking and inspiring.
His body returned home on his 28th birthday and he was buried with full military honors.
While life goes on, much has changed in the four months since those remarkable events. Family and friends are left to pick up the pieces and move on. Aaron’s fiancé, Alex Seagroves, has started a nursing program and is living on the Wasatch Front.
For Aaron’s parents, Randy and Laura Butler, the past four months have been bittersweet. They have attended a host of events that honored the life of their son. They have also sought comfort while dealing with the loss of a remarkable life that was cut short too soon.
Laura Butler found the following materials while she was going through Aaron’s belongings. They were written by Aaron in June, 2014 as part of an assignment while he was going through a Special Forces training program.
Q: What was it in your life that made you want to be in Special Forces?
“I grew up in a small town on the foothills of the Abajo Mountains in southeastern Utah. The only entertainment while growing up was outdoor activities. I did a lot of hiking, camping, and hunting in the mountains. I grew to love being outdoors, living out of a backpack, and anything that was related to firearms.
“I also spent my summers working on a farm and learning the value of hard work. I developed a great interest in the adventure of the military as a child and would dream about being a ‘commando’.
“As I got older and into my teenage years, I developed a lasting sense of pride in America and the values we stand for and present in the world. I had been taught to work hard, be competitive, and love the outdoors.
“Couple that with the sense of gratitude I had developed towards the freedoms enjoyed in this country and I began to feel a strong pull and sense of duty towards joining the military.
“I worked hard in sports to become the best I could and perform on a high level. With this attitude I decided that if I joined the military, I would set my goals towards becoming a member of one of the elite special operations units.
“After high school, I had the opportunity to travel and live in Africa for humanitarian service, and later, security work in the private sector in West Africa.
“During this time, my eyes were opened to the Third World culture, government oppression over their constituents, civil unrest, and abuse of police and military authority.
“I realized more than ever before that not everyone enjoys the freedoms and opportunities we do in America. I understood that everyone deserved a chance at what we have.
“As I continued researching the military, I was convinced the Army Special Forces was uniquely equipped and trained to make the biggest difference in the struggle against oppressions I had witnessed in Africa.
“I was now not only interested and duty bound, but I gained a new-found passion towards being a part of liberating the oppressed. I made up my mind that I would do whatever it took to become a Special Forces guy.
“I trained and prepared for the gated events that qualify Special Forces soldiers and set my goals for a career path that would give myself the best chance of success.
“That is why I’m here today.”
Q: What do you expect out of the Qualification course?
“I expect to be challenged physically and mentally beyond anything I’ve experienced thus far in my lifetime.
“I fully expect to receive the best and most up-to-date training for Unconventional Warfare in the world. I expect my Cadre and Instructors to be seasoned, experienced Special Forces operators who can and will pass on not only the training core, but the lessons they’ve learned throughout their Special Forces careers.
“I expect to be part of one of the finest courses and traditions in our nation’s military history.”
Q: What do you expect out of Group?
“I expect to be surrounded by highly professional and tactically proficient soldiers who share a genuine interest to help develop me as a new member of the team. I expect, once integrated, to feel a sense of family with team members.
“I would expect a Special Forces Group to have sufficient funds and support to train, equip, and sustain the teams with the tools needed to complete the Special Forces mission.
“I expect the opportunity to further my training and knowledge through mission-oriented schools and courses. I expect to get from Group what... I’m putting in as my part.”
In addition to the journal entries, Aaron also had a note card that contained inspiring quotes.
“No misfortune is so bad that whining about it won’t make it worse.” —Jeffery R. Holland
“Patience is accepting that which cannot be changed and facing it with courage and grace.” — Dieter F. Uchtdorf
“Great things do not happen because it is your destiny. Your destiny happens because you do great things.” — Aaron Butler