Cape Cod native onboard copter in Afghan crash
BARNSTABLE, Mass. -- Kevin Houston was one serviceman onboard the helicopter shot down in Afghanistan Saturday.
Houston, 36, a Navy SEAL and the recipient of a Purple Heart, hails from Barnstable. He grew up on Cape Cod and graduated from Barnstable High School. He was the captain of his high school football team and had friends and family still present in the Bay State.
Kevin Macconnell had been friends with Houston since elementary school.
"He's always been like a big brother to me," Macconnell said. "We always kept in touch."
Saturday's phone call from Houston's mother hit Macconnell especially hard. She called to tell him the bad news: Houston's helicopter had been shut down in Afghanistan.
"I kind of just interrupted her," he said. "I needed to say, ‘is he alive?' And she said, ‘no.'"
The attack killed 30 Americans, many of them Navy SEALS. Some, including Houston, were part of the elite SEAL Team Six -- a group made famous more recently for storming and killing al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Those killed this weekend did not take part in this mission, according to US officials.
"I sincerely thought he'd be all right," Macconnell said.
Paul "Spanky" Demanche, Houston's former Barnstable High football coach, said that Houston had characteristics of a SEAL, even 17 years ago.
"He took to the training aspect we did, in terms of weight-training. He relished that component of it," Demanche recalled. "So you could see that was going to be part of his future."
Friends took some consolation knowing Houston died doing what he loved.
"This was what he wanted," said Toni Gomes, Houston's godmother. "He wanted to be a hero."
Christopher Kelly, a Vietnam War veteran and a mentor to Houston, never knew how much he impacted the teenager until last June when Houston came home on leave and presented him with an American flag -- one that Houston literally wore on his heart during hundreds of missions.
"Such an honor when you realize that he wore it on his chest between his body armor on all these missions he was on," Kelly said. ""He was like a son to me, and I was kind of a father figure to him."
Houston moved down to Virginia as he joined the Navy. He leaves behind a wife and three children.
"He said, ‘when I grow up, I'm going to be a Navy SEAL.' What are you going to be?" Macconnell said, remembering a conversation from their childhood. "If anybody could emulate a human being, it would be Kevin Houston," he said.
NATO and American officials are expected to release more information about the crash.
(Copyright (c) 2011 Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)