Growing up, John was an all-American kid.  The boy-next-door type, he loved working with computers during his spare time in high school. “He built his first computer at a friend’s house whose dad operated a computer business from there. John also loved being on the debate team,” his sister Chan begins.  She recalls John being active in sports, particularly track and wrestling. “Unfortunately, he was not a lady’s man, but he had tons of friends and would have given the shirt off his back if someone needed it.”

John graduated high school a term earlier than his classmates at the onset of 2003 and, from there, headed to boot camp.  He decided to enlist in the Navy because of the growing relationship he had with his recruiter before his enlistment.

"John’s first year in the service was very hard on him. He was homesick and kept telling me that he couldn’t wait for the next three years to go by so he could get out and come home. As a big sister, I told him to sit back and enjoy it. After all, he was stationed in Italy!"  

    After a period of time he started calling me from the military’s dog kennels. He told me he was volunteering and helping with taking care of the dogs. Soon after, he called to let me know he was going to be in San Antonio, Texas training to be a dog handler.

"John never told us what he actually did when he started advancing in his military career. The only thing he would talk about was what his dogs were like. He loved his dogs," Chan says.  "Up until John’s passing the family always thought he was a [dog] handler and when deployed, he was patrolling the gates. It never crossed our minds that he was assigned to a SEAL team and how dangerous his deployments actually were.  I think we took for granted how many times he had been deployed and how many times he came back. Since 2003, he had been deployed to Iraq three times and Afghanistan twice, passing away during his second tour in Afghanistan.”

On the morning of August 6th 2011, Chan’s family was informed personally by the United States Navy that John and his military working dog Bart had passed away in a Chinook [helicopter] downing in Afghanistan. “We were all devastated. I had just saw my brother two months earlier for my wedding.”

    After the news of John’s death, we decided, as a family, that we needed to have something of John home with us since we knew his last wishes were to be laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery with his fellow brothers.

There was a park being built in our hometown called, Siouxland Freedom Park, which was to honor past, present and future veterans. Before my brother’s passing, I wanted to show my appreciation for his service by ……..

Navy Master-at-Arms Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist) John Douangdara died August 6, 2011 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom.

John Douangdara 26, of South Sioux City, Neb.; assigned to an East Coast-based SEAL team; died Aug. 6 in Wardak province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when the CH-47 Chinook helicopter in which he was riding was shot down.

Master-at-Arms 1st Class (EXW) John Douangara, 25, of South Sioux City, Neb., enlisted in February 2003, the Navy said.

Douangara’s initial service school training was at Norfolk, Va., before he joined the security detachment at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, in June 2003. He moved to Naval Submarine Base New London, Conn., in August 2006 before joining his East Coast-based SEAL team in January 2008.

Douangara’s decorations include the Bronze Star with ‘V’ device; Joint Service Commendation Medal with ‘V’ device; Army Commendation Medal; Presidential Unit Citation; Good Conduct Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Afghanistan Campaign Medal; Iraq Campaign Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Sea Service Deployment Ribbon; three Overseas Service Ribbons; Rifle Marksmanship Medal and the Pistol Marksmanship Medal.


“I don’t think my brother would call himself a hero. He was doing his job, doing what he believed in. But in our hearts, he’ll always be our hero.”


John was a selfless and loving man; he had the chance to touch many lives and so they grieve with us. With an electric smile and an unforgettable laugh John lived life to the fullest.

We will miss our beloved John, but his memory will carry on in our hearts until we meet with him again.


John being the life of the party:

Last Goodbyes :


For more info on MA1 John Douangdara: