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James Erik Suh grew up in South Florida where he was raised by his father Solomon Suh, a single parent and Korean immigrant. Despite earning a very modest living as a warehouse laborer, Solomon put everything he had into raising James and his older sister. James's life focused on family, church, school and sports. He excelled in school, entering the Gifted program at an early age. He was especially strong in math but also proved to be a talented artist and athlete. He competed in tennis and swimming but fishing, drawing and training dogs were also his passions. By the time he finished high school, James had acquired a long list of accomplishments, yet what he appeared most proud of was his relationships with family and friends. James was very close to not only his immediate family but his eleven cousins, numerous aunts, uncles and grandparents. James was the life of family get-togethers, always wearing a wry smile, cracking a joke and
engaging people with his genuine interest in their lives. He held an enthusiasm and gratitude for his family that is not often seen. James was also part of a close-knit group of friends who had grown up together from their early days of elementary school. These five boys were like brothers, growing up playing GI Joes, skateboarding and in general chasing one adventure after another. When one member of this group, James's best friend, died tragically in an accident in his early teens, James decided to change his middle name to take on his friend's name, Erik, as his own. And in the years that passed after Erik's death, James stayed in close contact with Erik's mother, never forgetting Mother's Day or letting her know that she was in his thoughts. James was nothing if not a loyal friend and someone who always stood ready to encourage, defend or comfort those he loved.
As James prepared to enter the University of Florida, he began thinking seriously about joining the Navy SEALs. After graduating with a Bachelor's degree in Statistics, James enlisted in the Navy and began his journey, ultimately reaching his goal of becoming a SEAL and fighting in defense of his country. But before being deployed on his first mission in February of 2005, James prepared and hid birthday gifts for his father who would be turning 65 in late May and whom he had taken into his home in Hawaii. On Solomon's birthday, James managed to call from Afghanistan and directed his father to a concealed corner of his room where several gifts had laid wrapped, unnoticed for months. Along with the gifts was a hand-made card expressing how grateful James felt for everything his father had done for him, recounting a long list of cherished memories he held.
One month later, on June 28, 2005, four SEAL team members were conducting a counter insurgency operation in Kunar province, Afghanistan. Injured and pinned down during a firefight with more than 150 Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters, the missions' commander called for support. James and 15 other SEALs and Nightstalkers volunteered and boarded a MH-47 Chinook helicopter from Bagram Air Base to join the fight and extract the wounded SEALs. During the rescue attempt, James's helicopter was struck by a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) killing all 16 members aboard. James was 28 years old.
James Erik Suh was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor and Purple Heart posthumously for his actions. Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell, a member of the four man SEAL team, survived and was later rescued by US forces thanks to the efforts of these men.
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