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Amid Military Tension, Meme Misdates Soldiers’ Deaths


Quick Take

A meme circulating on Facebook displays photos of five U.S. soldiers that purportedly were killed “this Tuesday in Afghanistan.” Actually, they died in 2013 and there was a sixth soldier killed in the same incident who isn’t included in the meme.


Full Story

A photo montage of five U.S. soldiers has been circulating on Facebook recently with this message: “These are the five men that died in a helicopter crash this Tuesday in Afghanistan. Fill your news feed with dedications to them, as they were fighting for our country.”

But they were killed in 2013, and the meme is missing one soldier. A total of six soldiers died in that helicopter crash, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

The five featured in the recent Facebook post include:

  • Chief Warrant Officer 2 Randy L. Billings, who was 34 and came from Heavener, Oklahoma.
  • Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua B. Silverman, who was 35 and came from Scottsdale, Arizona.
  • Sgt. Peter C. Bohler, who was 29 and came from Willow Spring, North Carolina.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Omar W. Forde, who was 28 and came from Marietta, Georgia.
  • Spc. Terry K. D. Gordon, who was 22 and came from Shubuta, Mississippi.

The post left out:

Those six soldiers were killed when their Black Hawk helicopter was blasted with an improvised explosive device as it hovered about 79 feet above a ridge line in southern Afghanistan on Dec. 17, 2013, according to an Army report about the crash. The seventh soldier in the helicopter survived.

Between Oct. 7, 2001, and Jan. 6, 2020, there have been a total of 2,301 military deaths in Afghanistan, according to the most recent figures released by the Department of Defense. The latest military casualty in Afghanistan was on Dec. 23, when Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Goble, 33, of Washington Township, New Jersey, was killed in combat.

The meme began circulating as tensions in the Middle East rose after a U.S. strike killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 2, prompting Iran to threaten “severe revenge” against the United States. Although the information in the meme is outdated by six years, one recent post was shared 30,000 times in 24 hours on Facebook.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.

Sources

U.S. Department of Defense. “DoD Identifies Army Casualties.” 19 Dec 2013.

U.S. Department of Defense. Casualty Status. 6 Jan 2020.

Department of the Army. Executive Summary, Army Regulation (AR) 15-6 Investigation, 17 Dec 13 UH-60M Incident in Zabul Province, Afghanistan. DocumentCloud, contributed by Evan Wagstaff of the Los Angeles Times. 18 Jan 2014.