On Sunday morning in Pennypack Park in northeast Philadelphia, about one hundred attendees gathered near the park’s outdoor stage for the March for Justice, held to call for justice in the death of local veteran Michael Strange and his fellow soldiers who died when a Chinook helicopter they were riding in was shot down in August 2011.
Thirty-eight people died in the crash, as well as one military working dog. The incident is often called the worst loss of American lives in a single incident throughout the Afghanistan campaign.
“We want a congressional hearing,” said Charles Strange, father of the fallen Seal Team Six soldier Michael Strange, and founder of the nonprofit organization that bears his son’s name.
Strange said that since the incident, he’s struggled to get straightforward answers from government officials on his son’s death, saying he wanted to know specific questions about military procedure and equipment – he told the crowd that the military told him there were no “eye in the sky” satellite cameras able to catch footage of the incident because they all suffered a “glitch” at the moment of the crash – and he had questions about those who were on the helicopter at the time and about how the incident unfolded.
Strange said he obtained photos of his son’s body after the crash that seemed to show his son after jumping, or being thrown from, the helicopter. He said, in a photo he discussed, but didn’t share with the audience, that his son’s body was in good condition – “you could see all the hair on his head and you could see his great smile,” he said – but, he claimed he was told by the military that his son died in a fiery crash and his body needed to be cremated.
“We are Catholic. We don’t believe in cremation,” he said. “Why did they need to do that?”
Since the crash, there have been at least two investigations into the incident. A detailed piece on the history of the crash of Extortion 17, the codename for the helicopter, in the Smithsonian’s Air and Space magazine noted the United States Central Command has conducted an investigation, as has the multiservice Joint Combat Assessment Team.
In fact, that article noted that these investigations looked at some questions that were brought up at Sunday’s rally, most notably, concerning if the “Taliban were tipped off; it was a trap; it was retribution for the killing?” But, the article notes, no evidence has been found to support these concerns.
But, in a search for answers, several who spoke at Sunday’s rally, staged in front of a banner that read “remember our heroes Extortion 17 – look it up," suggested that the entire incident was a cover-up from the beginning. A common idea that several interviewed shared with a reporter after the event was that, while in office, President Barack Obama had worked with the government of Afghanistan in order to move heroin to Iran, where Iran sold the drug to America and Europe, in order to enrich the Muslim leaders in Iran.
“I mean, look at the heroin epidemic here,” said Strange, talking about the theory.
“And, that money is being used so they [Iran] can get nuclear weapons,” interjected Bill McHugh, from Philadelphia.
Along with their fact-finding, others to speak at Sunday’s rally proudly touted the president as an answer to solve the concerns over government lies, while others implored the crowd to be wary of mainstream media.
“This is about the truth. This is about a government that lies to you, me and everybody else,” said Robert Walls, a retired member the Philadelphia Police, while also warning the crowd to tell their children that “the media will lie to them.”
“They lie all the time for political reasons,” he said.
“With the exception of [President Donald] Trump, the government is full of liars,” said Larry Klayman, a conservative lawyer who proudly touted his history of bringing lawsuits against President Bill Clinton.
Klayman spoke against not just radical Islam, but what he called “Muslim terror,” and warned those in attendance to prepare for a day when they may need to fight back against government oppression.
“We are going to take our country back, and we are going to fulfill the vision of our Founding Fathers. … We are Pennsylvanians. We are a gun state. We know how to use it when we have to,” said Klayman, in a speech in which he argued Obama “must” be a practicing Muslim because the former president wouldn’t have Hussein as his middle name if he wasn’t Muslim.
After the rally, all attendees left the park, and Strange invited the crowd to attend a luncheon nearby with hot dogs and roast beef.