Three members of the New England Patriots have held their heads high with an extra sense of pride since the Navy SEALs completed the United States’ 10-year mission to hunt down and kill Osama bin Laden.
Wide receiver Tyree Barnes, running back Eric Kettani and wide receiver Shun White are on the Patriots’ reserve/military list while they complete their active duty in the United States Navy. Barnes and White shared their excitement Tuesday with NESN.com.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Kettani said. “It’s not the Air Force. It’s not the Marine Corps. It’s not pilots dropping 1,000-pound bombs on a bunker. It’s Navy SEAL guys that are actually in the fight at all times. I was pretty impressed. The Navy SEALs are a great unit, and I have tremendous respect for them.”
Barnes heard the news about 24 hours later than it happened because his ship — the USS Gonzalez (DDG-66) — was out at sea and didn’t return to port in Virginia until Monday.
“It’s been great,” Barnes said. “Our command officer went over and told us, and we found out probably a day after everyone else did. I was excited. I got the chance to come back and got on the Internet and saw some stuff that our sports information director was sending out via Twitter. They were celebrating at the Naval Academy just like when we beat Notre Dame. They were celebrating. It was just good.”
Barnes and Kettani will finish their active duty by the end of May, and White should complete his tour by the end of 2011. White was unavailable for comment because his ship is currently deployed off the coast of Libya.
Barnes and Kettani both signed with the Patriots two years ago and will head to New England when their 24 months of active duty is complete, providing the lockout has concluded.
They will spend six years as select reserves, and they have each written long endorsements detailing how they plan to benefit the Navy through public affairs as select reserves, which is one step lower than active reserves. As select reserves, they don’t need to worry about reporting to the Navy for training. They could still get called up to active reserve status, but that appears unlikely.
Barnes and Kettani — who have each completed tours off the coast of Somalia — have ensign ranks, which they described as a first-rank officer. Barnes, who is an electronics warfare officer and deals with counter-missile activity, will be promoted Thursday to lieutenant junior grade.
Kettani is a repair division officer of engineering on the USS Klakring (FFG-42), which is currently stationed in Jacksonville, Fla. White works in the weapons department on his ship.
Barnes said he knew something was going on a few days ago when they increased the protection level on their ship. Later, he realized it had to do with the killing of bin Laden.
“Those guys are Navy SEALs,” Barnes said. “A lot of them could have gone to our school, maybe went to our school, went through the same four years we went through at Annapolis. It was really, really a good tribute. I was reading the stories and how much planning and effort went into it. You kind of get a sense of how things come together, and being a part of something bigger than yourself means a lot for the Navy and for your country, and that feels good.”