Christopher Burkhardt and K.C. Fockler never got to meet Stephen Matthew "Matt" Mills, but they plan to thank the fallen Navy SEAL on the tennis court.
The two members of the Palisades Tennis Club in Newport Beach are organizing a benefit tournament, scheduled for Aug. 28, in memory of Mills. His mother-in-law is a longtime club member, and his widow was born in Newport Beach and spent many a summer vacation there.
"Everyone is always looking for ways to express our gratitude to our Armed Forces," Burkhardt said. "This one just hit us square in the face, coming so close to our membership."
Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer Mills, 35, a newlywed father of a 17-month-old boy, belonged to the Navy's "best of the best." He was one of 22 SEALs killed aboard a U.S. Chinook helicopter downed by enemy fire inAfghanistan on Aug. 6.
A news release from the Pentagon confirmed that Mills, a Texan stationed at Hampton Roads, Va., was one of 30 Americans killed in the chopper's downing, which also killed eight Afghans. According to the Los Angeles Times, the death toll from the crash was the highest for U.S. forces in a single incident during the 10-year-old conflict in Afghanistan.