By Aaron Applegate
© August 10, 2011
Red carnations and fluttering American flags lined the beach, forming a gateway to the surf Tuesday night. Sunflowers, daisies and red roses filled buckets, as more than 200 surfers picked up a flower, clenched it in their teeth and paddled out into the ocean off Sandbridge near one of Kraig Vickers favorite surfing spots.
Vickers, a Navy bomb disposal technician working with a Beach-based SEAL team, was one of 30 Americans killed in the helicopter crash in Afghanistan. He lived in Virginia Beach with his wife and several children. Another child is on the way.
Just south of the Little Island Fishing Pier, surfers and stand up paddlers formed a giant circle, interlocking hands and paddles in a ceremony called a paddle out.
The event was a rare public display of mourning for victims of the crash in a city home to secretive, close-knit SEAL teams and those who work with them. Organizers asked that no interviews be conducted. Vickers’ wife, Nani, was at the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Tuesday, where the remains were brought home.
Vickers originally was from Hawaii and would have turned 37 on Thursday. Friends and family members told Hawaiian newspapers that he was a standout high school football player in Maui, devoted to his family and as smart as he was strong. A picture of him displayed Tuesday showed him sitting on the beach, cradling one of his daughters in his massive forearms.
He enjoyed stand-up paddling and last year he entered a Sandbridge race with a daughter, who wore a water wing, riding with him on the board.
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