Thomas Ratzlaff, 34, Was a Navy SEAL
Navy SEAL Senior Chief Petty Officer Thomas Ratzlaff, 34, was one of 30 American military service members killed on August 6, 2011 when their CH-47D Chinook helicopter with callsign Extortion 17 was shot down over Wardak Province in Afghanistan. He joined the Navy in 1995 and completed Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training at Coronado, California.
Early Life and Education
Thomas Ratzlaff was 34 when he died defending those closest to him as a Navy SEAL in Green Forest, Northwest Arkansas. According to his family, Thomas Ratzlaff loved doing what he loved – protecting those that mattered the most in life and doing his duty – before passing away protecting those he cared about most in life.
He was part of a team who perished when their CH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down near Wardak Province, Afghanistan, in August 2011 as part of Operation Extortion 17. Thirty Americans and one military dog perished during this tragic crash; elite Navy special warfare operator Thomas was among them.
Ratzlaff attended Green Forest High School before enlisting in the Navy that same year. He completed Recruit Training Command at Great Lakes, Illinois and Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL School in Coronado, California before being assigned to an East Coast-based SEAL team where he met his untimely death.
Bil La Forge of the Seattle Thunderbirds declared Ratzlaff “the goalie of the future” during the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft, and on Friday night in Kennewick they got their first taste as he made his professional debut and stopped 18 of 20 shots he faced for a 5-2 victory against Tri-City Americans.
Jeff Erdmann has thoroughly enjoyed watching Rosemount head coach Jeff Ratzlaff this season, particularly his instinct for hitting people and giving physical hits. According to Erdmann, Ratzlaff’s drive makes him entertaining to watch as an underrated senior safety.
Ratzlaff was known to visit his hometown in northwest Arkansas often and enjoyed stopping at the local log cabin restaurant for breakfast consisting of eggs, sausage and wheat toast. He and his wife had two sons; their third child “a girl” is due in November. Additionally, Ratzlaff leaves behind his sister and mother.
Achievement and Honors
Thomas Ratzlaff dreamt of becoming a SEAL since he was young, and ultimately paid the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan when their helicopter was shot down.
He earned four Bronze Star Medals with Combat “V” devices, two Joint Service Commendation Medals, a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Defense Service Medal, NATO Medal, Kosovo Campaign Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for Iraq Campaign Medals Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (8) Navy Expert Rifleman and Pistol Shot Medals among his awards.
His family says the honor would make him humbled to see their street named in his honor.
Tom enjoyed many pursuits throughout his life. His interests ranged from music, theatre and golf – attending concerts of rock, jazz and classical genres alike; to enjoying Broadway productions in Wichita with season tickets; from watching and playing golf, as well as enjoying family time whenever possible. He especially cherished being close to his wife and children.
After graduating Green Forest High School in 1995 and immediately joining the Navy afterward, his lifelong goal was to be part of an East Coast-based SEAL unit – fulfilling one of his lifelong aspirations dreams.
He died August 6, 2011, when his CH-47 Chinook helicopter carrying 30 special operations forces was shot down by insurgent fire. He is survived by two sons and an expecting wife expecting their third child this November; Green Forest now displays its flags at half-staff to honor him.
Thomas Ratzlaff, 34, joined an East Coast-based Special Warfare Operator Team when he enlisted in May 1995 in Green Forest, Arkansas. On August 6, he was shot down while flying in a CH-47 Chinook helicopter in Wardak province, Afghanistan by enemy fire.
He leaves behind his wife and two sons as well as his mother and sister. Green Forest pays its respects by flying flags at half-staff; additionally a memorial service was held in a log cabin restaurant where he enjoyed getting eggs, sausage and wheat toast each morning.
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