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Kris Paronto reflects on 6-year Benghazi anniversary – ‘Those heroes who died exemplified American spirit, patriotism’

Benghazi hero Kris Paronto. (Distributed Photo/Kris Paronto/Released)
September 11, 2018

On Sept. 11, 2012, four Americans were killed in an attack against two U.S. government facilities in Benghazi, Libya.

The U.S. Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens; U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith; and CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen “Bub” Doherty, both former Navy SEALs, were killed in the terrorist attack against the Benghazi compound.

For Kris “Tanto” Paronto, one of the heroes of Benghazi and a former Army Ranger, the sixth anniversary of the attack is a day of remembrance. But it’s also more than that.

“It’s remembering the heroes that died. People called me a hero, I’m not at all. Heroes are people who give their lives so everyone can come back,” he told American Military News on Tuesday.

“They showed tremendous courage. It was amazing to be with people who exemplified American spirit, patriotism and courage,” he said. “The only reason I was courageous is because of my teammates. None of them looked like they had fear in their eyes. Fear can be contagious, but so can bravery and courage.”

Paronto is one of the survivors of the 2012 terror attacks on the U.S. government facilities in Benghazi. He is a former Army Ranger from the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.

When reflecting on Benghazi, there’s “of course some sadness, because of the guys who were killed.”

There’s also anger, he said, “because of what’s going on today and the leaders – [former President Barack] Obama, [former Secretary of State] Hillary [Clinton] and [former Defense Secretary] Leon Panetta – who left us to die.”

“They left us to die and are now not saying anything and trying to rewrite history,” Paronto said.

But he has found a silver lining amidst the anger and sadness, he says.

“If you want a textbook of what American spirit is about, look at Tyrone and Glen, and the other men at Benghazi, and what went on that night. Not the politics, but what happened on the ground.”

“It was my team that exemplified the courage of an American warrior, the warrior ethos. I still think back about how many times I smiled that night watching guys doing courageous acts,” he continued.

“I still remember watching Tyrone and Glen die,” Paronto reflected. “I saw them get blown up. I saw every mortar hit in my night vision. It’s one thing to lose friends in battle; it’s another thing to watch as they die.”

What he chooses to remember now are his friends, and their courageous acts, Paronto said.

“We remember the sacrifices that Tyrone, Glen and the others made by giving their lives,” he added. “I’ve got the photos of the flag-draped coffins. Those coffins were full of my friends’ dead bodies.”

At around 9:40 p.m. local time, a large number of armed men attacked the compound. Stevens and Smith died from smoke inhalation, while Woods and Doherty were killed by two separate mortar rounds that hit their position at the CIA annex.

A report released in 2016 revealed that the Obama Administration and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton failed to protect the American diplomats.

The 800-page report revealed that in the months leading up to the attack, there was worsening security in Libya, poor bureaucratic leadership and inadequate resources. The report showed Clinton and the State Department’s inadequacy to protect the Libyan diplomatic outpost. The report also revealed that the CIA missed the threat and wrote faulty intelligence after the attack.

Clinton told a U.S. House committee that she was aware of the dangers in Libya but “there was no actionable intelligence” indicating a planned terrorist attack. The report showed that intelligence was available, but Clinton and her top aide, Patrick Kennedy, failed to realize the risk of a potential attack.

The 800-page report took more than two years to investigate and complete.

The final report of the Benghazi attack criticizes Clinton’s use of a private email account during the attacks. It also offers why no Department of Defense assets moved in to help the four Americans who were killed in the attack. Obama and then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta approved the U.S. military to do anything it could and move in around 8:30 p.m., but the Defense Department failed to meet deployment times and no one was deployed for hours. The Defense Department said it could not have responded in time, but according to the panel, it should have tried because it didn’t know when the attack would end.