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Navy Special Warfare Operator 3rd Class Denis C. Miranda

Died September 21, 2010 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom

24, of Toms River, N.J.; assigned to an East Coast-based SEAL Team; died Sept. 21 in Qalat, Afghanistan, in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crash during combat operations. Also killed in the crash were: Army Lt. Col. Robert F. Baldwin, Army Sgt. Marvin R. Calhoun Jr., Lt. (SEAL) Brendan J. Looney, Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonah D. McClellan, Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician (Collection) David B. McLendon, Army Staff Sgt. Joshua D. Powell, Navy Special Warfare Operator 2nd Class (SEAL) Adam O. Smith, and Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Matthew G. Wagstaff.

Was key member of high school swim team

By Matthew McGrath

Asbury Park (N.J.) Press

TOMS RIVER, N.J. — A Toms River High School East graduate who later became a Navy SEAL was among nine American troops killed in a Sept. 21 military helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Denis Miranda was one of four sailors killed in the crash in the Zabul province, Defense Department officials said. Five soldiers also died.

Miranda graduated from High School East in 2003. He was a member of the school swim team. During his sophomore year in 2001, Miranda was picked by the Asbury Park Press as a key newcomer to the team. In 2002, he was picked as a key returning swimmer.

“He was one of the guys that helped me out when I took over the swimming program,” said Brian Carbone, High School East swim coach. “When I needed something done he would round up the kids. He was one of the more vocal swimmers.”

Miranda enlisted in the Navy on Sept. 10, 2003. Before becoming a SEAL in 2007, he served at Patrol Squadron 8 in Jacksonville, Fla.

Carbone said he got to know Miranda better after he enlisted. Miranda would follow his two younger brothers, Alan and Kevin, through their swimming careers.

“He had a real passion, and I was happy to see that,” Carbone said. “You could see that he was very focused. He had his goals.”

Military officials have not disclosed the helicopter’s mission, and the cause of the crash was not immediately clear.

NATO said there were no reports of enemy fire in the early morning hours in the Daychopan district of Zabul, where the crash took place.

The Defense Department identified the other dead sailors as Lt. Brendan Looney, 29, of Owings, Md.; Senior Chief Petty Officer David McLendon, 30, of Thomasville, Ga.; and Petty Officer 2nd Class Adam Smith, 26, of Hurland, Mo.

‘He always gave everything he could’

By Matthew McGrath

Asbury Park (N.J.) Press

TOMS RIVER, N.J. — Alan Miranda will always remember his older brother’s charity.

Denis Miranda would help his parents, Christian and Patricia, by sending them money. He would remind his two younger brothers about the sacrifices they made to help raise them.

“He always wanted to give to my parents, he always gave everything he could,” Alan Miranda said. “He was always there for us.”

Denis Miranda, 24, a Navy SEAL who reached the rank of petty officer third class, was killed Sept. 21 with three other sailors and five soldiers in a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan.

Not so long ago, Alan Miranda was “chatting it up” with brother Denis on the phone.

Denis Miranda was walking down the street in Fayettville, N.C., at the time. He suddenly stopped the conversation, asked his brother to hold on and dropped the phone to his side.

Waiting on the other end of the line, Alan heard his brother asking a homeless man: Do you need anything? Alan then heard an unfamiliar voice: “I could really use something to eat.”

“He bought this dude bread and cold cuts which would last him a lot longer than a burger,” Alan Miranda said. “That’s the type of person my brother was. He would walk into a grocery store, which he had no intention of going to, to buy someone food.”

After Denis Miranda gave the homeless man his food, he wished him a good night and told him to stay warm.

Miranda wasn’t in Afghanistan long. He was deployed from Virginia Beach on Sept. 12, Alan Miranda said.

Before Denis Miranda was deployed, he proposed to his girlfriend of three years, Lacy Cromwell, who is also a sailor. The couple first met at training in Florida, and got into a relationship later.

They met again on the street in downtown San Diego when both were assigned to the Navy base there, Cromwell said. They became fast friends. They spent as much time together as they could, she said. Within three months their friendship became romantic.

Denis Miranda enlisted in the Navy on Sept. 10, 2003. Before becoming a SEAL in 2007, he served at Patrol Squadron 8 in Jacksonville, Fla.

“I don’t know why he joined the Navy,” Alan said. “I’m not sure if it had to do with patriotism or if he thought he had a calling.”

Hundreds pay respect as remains return home

By Chelsea Michels

Asbury Park (N.J.) Press

TOMS RIVER, N.J. — Under a gray sky, hundreds of people lined the streets of downtown Toms River to pay homage to a man few of them ever knew.

As a funeral procession wound its way through the downtown, government employees, veterans and residents lined the streets waving flags. They were there to honor Navy Special Warfare Operator 3rd Class (SEAL) Denis Miranda, 24, who died Sept. 21, a little more than a week after being deployed to Afghanistan.

Miranda’s remains arrived early Sept. 27 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and were escorted to Toms River.

Among the people who gathered to show support was township resident Jackie Robertazzi.

She empathized with the Miranda family, sharing the fear of a mother whose child is serving overseas. Robertazzi’s son Jason was deployed with the Army to Iraq on Sept. 11. Her daughter Jennifer previously served six years in Iraq with the Air Force before returning safely.

“It just hits too close to home,” said Robertazzi, who added that her children were graduates of Toms River High School East, as was Miranda. “My heart broke for the parents and for Denis. I just feel really bad.”

As police escorts led several black limousines back to Anderson and Campbell Funeral Home on Main Street, onlookers watched somberly as a military salute was held. Six sailors carried the coffin into the funeral home and were followed by mourning family members and friends.

Miranda was killed with three other sailors and five soldiers when their helicopter crashed in Zabul province in southern Afghanistan. Miranda was deployed from Virginia Beach, Va., on Sept. 12, not long after proposing marriage to his girlfriend of three years, Lacy Cromwell, who also is a sailor.

In a statement, Miranda’s family thanked the community for its support.

“You’ve helped to console us as we grieve our loss, and you have taken the time to learn about the man our son was,” the statement read. “For that, we thank you, and Denis thanks you.”

David Perez, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6063 in Toms River, simply planned to salute Miranda during the funeral procession.

“Those of us who raise our hand and say ‘I do’ make a promise to pay the ultimate sacrifice as this man has,” said Perez, as fellow VFW commander Barbara Kim, of District 12 in Jackson, handed out American flags to supporters. “You have to show honor to those who have made that sacrifice. It’s the least we can do.”

Deborah Capaccio, whose three adult children are police officers around the state, said she was there as a mother supporting a mother.

“I worry about them every day,” she said. “As a mother, I would feel good about [the support from the community].”

The crowd grew quiet and respectful as the procession approached and watched with unwavering eyes as the pallbearers led the mourners inside.

Before entering, the naval officers removed their hats as they entered the funeral home. With that, the crowd began to disperse.

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