Navy Petty Officer First Class Michael J. Strange

PHILADELPHIA — It would not be accurate to say that Charles Strange felt a surge of anger when he read a newspaper report this week of evidence that U.S. military leaders misled the public about the war in Afghanistan.

No, for the Montgomery County father, the anger's always there, like a tiny earthquake rumbling below the surface. The intensity changes daily, but it never really goes away.

It's been more than eight years since his son, Navy Petty Officer First Class Michael J. Strange, was killed alongside 29 other U.S. soldiers and eight Afghan security forces on America's deadliest day of the war in Afghanistan. The crew, which included the 25-year-old Michael, were killed when Taliban fighters shot down their helicopter, Extortion 17, while they were carrying out a mission in a valley southwest of Kabul on Aug. 6, 2011.

Michael was a cryptologist and part of the elite Navy SEAL Team 6, the unit responsible for killing Osama bin Laden. At his core, though, he was a Wissinoming native, a graduate of North Catholic High School, and a "Philly boy" through-and-through.

This week, Charles Strange and his wife, Mary Ann, Michael's stepmother, sat in their home in Hatboro, parsing through the Washington Post's reporting on the Afghanistan Papers, which said what the Strange family has long thought: Military leadership can't always be trusted.

"This is what you get when your son dies: a pin and a flag," he said, his Gold Star pinned to his chest. "And lied to."

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Editor's note: This story originally appeared in October 2017.

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Photo courtesy of Will Thomas

Every Labor Day weekend for the past five years, Will Thomas has put in time and energy shooting baskets. Lots of baskets. From Friday afternoon to Monday evening, he sinks shot after shot, year after year.

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