Memorial Day message: Sacrifice for freedom (with multiple photos)


By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
Kris Paronto’s message to Gold Star families – those who have lost a family member in battle – is simple.
They did not die in vain, and do not think for one minute that they were worried about dying. They were worried about protecting our freedom, Paronto said.
Paronto survived the attack on the U.S. State Department diplomatic compound and adjacent CIA Annex in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012. He was the guest speaker at the Memorial Day ceremony, following the parade.
Memorial Day celebrates the soldiers, sailors and airmen who sacrificed their lives for our freedoms, said Paronto. He served in the U.S. Army 75th Ranger Regiment and in the U.S. Army National Guard.
Those who serve in the U.S. military sacrifice themselves for American citizens’ freedom, said Paronto, who became a contract security operator following his military service.
And there were plenty of sacrifices made during that night in Libya, Paronto said as he launched into a recounting of the events of Sept. 11, 2012. He was a member of the civilian security team at the CIA Annex when it was attacked.
The U.S. State Department diplomatic compound came under attack during the evening of Sept. 11, 2012. The attack on the CIA Annex occurred after midnight, and continued into the morning. It took several hours for a team of American reinforcements to reach the scene.
One of those Americans was Paronto’s friend, Glen “Bub” Doherty. He was a former U.S. Navy SEAL.
Paronto said Doherty and the other rescuers had been trying to get to the Benghazi compound from Tripoli. They eventually flew to the Benghazi airport, having rented an airplane and its pilots.
“Bub tried to get to us. Veterans never give up, they never cave. He rented a plane. That’s the military – find a way,” Paronto said.
But after arriving at the airport, the team was “stuck,” he said. Finally, Doherty called at 5 a.m. to let Paronto and the other security team members know that the rescuers were on their way.
Once the American reinforcements arrived, Doherty went up on the roof of the CIA Annex to find Tyrone Woods, who was a friend and former U.S. Navy SEAL. Woods was a member of the CIA’s Global Response Staff at the CIA Annex.
Suddenly, Paronto said, he heard a “swoosh” – the sound of a mortar being fired at the Annex. When it struck the Annex, there was a bright flash. He saw Woods and Doherty spinning as they tried to defend themselves.
“I saw the team on the roof, never giving up. I saw three more mortars hit,” Paronto said. When the final mortar struck the roof, there was a white light, he said.
“I still couldn’t figure it out. In my brain, ‘That was awesome.’ Oh God, I lost my team. I saw Oz (Mark Geist) get up. His arm was almost severed. He didn’t want to let you down, he kept firing (his weapon),” Paronto said.
Woods and Doherty were dead.
“Sacrifice. That’s what Memorial Day is about. Sacrifice for freedom – for me to be able to be here and say that. We have to remember that,” Paronto said.
“I thought of Bub holding on, never quitting, to get a plane to get to us. He was never looking for accolades. He did what he did. He never gave up so (others) could live,” Paronto said.
To the Gold Star families, Paronto said, “Your loved ones did not die in vain. We were doing what we loved. They were worried about letting the country down.”