3 former military men among those killed in Fallujah
By Connie Mabin
The Associated Press
WILLOUGHBY, Ohio - Two Army veterans and a former Navy SEAL were among four American contractors killed in Fallujah, Iraq, their bodies mutilated and dragged through the streets.
Family members and a spokesperson said Thursday that Jerko "Jerry" Zovko, 32, Michael Teague, 38, and Scott Helvenston, 38, died with another civilian Wednesday after they were hit by rocket-propelled grenades in a rebel ambush. The victims worked for Blackwater Security Consulting, one of five subsidiaries of North Carolina-based Blackwater USA.
Zovko's mother said she and her husband had suspected their son might be among the dead, but their fears were confirmed Thursday morning when the president of Blackwater USA knocked on their door.
"It was the hardest day of my life," Donna Zovko said in her suburban Cleveland home.
"Jerry was a man with a principle, an idea," she said. "He loved people. He wanted the world to be without borders, for everybody to be free and safe."
Zovko's family wouldn't say whether he was married or had children.
"My brother was an exceptional individual," Tom Zovko said. "He did what he thought was right."
Jerry Zovko was 19 when he joined the Army in 1991. He spoke five languages fluently -- English, Croatian, Spanish, Russian and Arabic. He served with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Tom Zovko said.
Teague of Clarksville, Tenn., was a 12-year Army veteran who earned a Bronze Star for service in Afghanistan and served in Panama and Grenada, his wife, Rhonda, said in a statement. She 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 had worked in the security business since he left the Army six years ago, but he joined Blackwater Security only two months ago, WTVF-TV of Nashville reported.
Helvenston was identified by a family spokesperson who said the family would comment today. Helvenston lived in Leesburg, Fla., before joining the Navy when he was 17.
He served with the Navy SEALs for 12 years and later worked as a fitness promoter, starting a company called Amphibian Athletics. He also was an actor and stunt man for movies including G.I. Jane, according to a company Web site.
The names of the four victims were not officially released because all family members had yet to be notified, U.S. officials said.