Posted on Fri, Apr. 02, 2004
Zovko always wanted to save the world
LOS ANGELES - After serving 12 years in the Navy, Scott Helvenston started a career as a fitness instructor and worked as trainer and stunt man for such movies as "Face/Off" and "G.I. Jane."
He helped prepare actress Demi Moore for her role as the first woman to join the Navy SEALs in "G.I. Jane," and appeared on two reality series: "Man vs. Beast" and "Combat Missions."
But after years out of the service, friends said they weren't surprised to learn the former SEAL had left the comfort of his life in California behind him and headed for Iraq.
"That's what, in a time of need, true American warriors like Scott would do," "Combat Missions" producer Mark Burnett said Thursday.
Helvenston, 38, was among four American civilian contractors killed in Fallujah, Iraq, in an ambush on Wednesday, their charred bodies mutilated and dragged through the streets. The contractors were working for Blackwater Security Consulting when their vehicle was hit by rocket-propelled grenades.
Two of the other victims have been identified as Jerko "Jerry" Zovko, 32, and Michael Teague, 38.
Zovko always wanted to save the world, his mother said. He joined the Army at 19 and spoke five languages fluently - English, Croatian, Spanish, Russian and Arabic.
"Jerry was a man with a principle, an idea," his mother, Danica "Donna" Zovko said in Willoughby, Ohio. "He loved people. He wanted the world to be without borders, for everybody to be free and safe."
Mrs. Zovko said she and her husband, Jozo, suspected their son was one of the dead late Wednesday evening because he had been working in Iraq. Their fears were confirmed early Thursday.
"He was the most self-motivated person," Zovko's brother Tom told ABC's "Good Morning America. "He grew up a skinny, little guy but wanted to be big, and he become big. He had desire and motivation and never gave up."
Teague was a 12-year Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, Panama and Grenada, said his wife, Rhonda Teague. She said he received a bronze star for his service in Afghanistan.
Rhonda Teague called her husband a "proud father, soldier and American."
"I, his son Brandon and his friends and family will miss him without measure," her statement said.
Teague, of Clarksville, Tenn., had worked in the security business since he left the Army six years ago, and joined Blackwater Security two months ago, WTVF-TV of Nashville reported.
A friend, Sgt. John Ratliff, told CBS' "The Early Show" that Teague "told me to promise to take care of his wife and his son ... He knew it was rough over there."
"In my opinion, Mike was caught in a situation to where he couldn't do anything for himself or his counterparts," Ratliff said. He said he knew his friend "would have done anything in his power" to save himself and the other three if it had been possible.
Helvenston's fitness company, Amphibian Athletics, promised to bring a Navy SEAL-style workout to his customers. His wife, Tricia, appeared in some of the company's workout videos.
Fred Atkinson, a neighbor of Helvenston's in Oceanside, said he was a devoted father to his children, Kyle and Kelsey, and often took them camping or surfing.
The identity of the fourth victim was not immediately known. The names of the victims were not officially released because all family members had yet to be notified, U.S. officials said Thursday.
Blackwater Security, based in Moyock, N.C., provides security training and guard services to customers around the world. President Gary Jackson and two other company leaders are former Navy SEAL commandos.
A statement on the company's Web site said officials were grieving for the employees.
"Our tasks are dangerous, and while we feel sadness for our fallen colleagues, we also feel pride and satisfaction that we are making a difference for the people of Iraq."