MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A Minnesota Navy SEAL was one of the 30 soldiers killed Saturday in America’s biggest loss since the war in Afghanistan started.

Twenty-four-year-old Nicholas Spehar, of Chisago City, died when the Chinook helicopter he was riding in crashed after being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

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Dave Ertl, who was the principal at Chisago Lakes High School when Spehar graduated in 2005, said Spehar excelled inside the classroom and outside of it.

“It’s painful. This is a very painful situation,” Ertl said.

Ertl said Spehar played football in the fall, swam in the winter and played baseball in the spring. He said the drive and determination he showed in sports carried over to the Navy SEALs.

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“He gave 110 percent whatever he was doing, which would lead then to his service for our country and giving it 110 percent. That’s who Nick is, that’s who his family is too,” Ertl said.

Ertl said Spehar and his family are active in the small town of Chisago City. Spehar was one of five siblings to graduate from the school.

The news of his death has affected the town, the school, and Ertl believes it’s a reminder that what’s happening thousands of miles away, can have an impact next door.

“We need to be supportive of our families and the military men and women. Whether it’s a situation like this or day to day service, we need to let them know that we are thankful for their service to our country,” Ertl said.

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The helicopter carrying Spehar was on a mission targeting a Taliban leader when it was shot. Twenty-two of the 30 American troops in the helicopter were Navy SEALs.

John Lauritsen