My oldest friend, Louis Langlais, died Saturday. He was 45 years old.
I met Louis in the fourth grade on the upper playground at Monte Vista Elementary School. We struck up a fast friendship that lasted until his death Saturday over Afghanistan. Louis was a member of SEAL Team Six. He was among the 30 Americans killed when their helicopter was shot down by a rocket-fired grenade.
Lou lived on Center Avenue, in the Hope Avenue neighborhood. He moved around a lot as a kid, living for a time in Vancouver and then Switzerland. But he always returned to Santa Barbara, where he attended Santa Barbara Middle School and Santa Barbara High School.
Our friendship was based on skateboarding, baseball and weekends spent fishing off the Goleta Pier and Stearns Wharf. Those weekends fishing were the start of his great love of the sea, which grew as he first took up snorkeling and eventually SCUBA diving. Fishing trips to the piers ended when Lou acquired a Hawaiian sling and found fishing that way much easier than using a rod and line. So we were off to the kelp beds of Thousand Steps and Hendry's Beach.
In high school, he discovered his passion for rock climbing. Weekends after that alternated between spear-fishing and climbing at Gibraltar Rock. Lou became an ace climber, free-soloing T-Crack and the Nose - no small feat now, but doubly tough in the Eighties!
Lou made the nightly national newscasts - not to mention Sports Illustrated - on April Fools Day, 1997. He tried to parachute into Pro Player Stadium dressed as the Florida Marlins mascot, Billy the Marlin. The wind tore off his marlin's five-pound head at about 6,000 feet and Louie maneuvered his landing to come down outside the stadium. The head was found in good shape two months later, by the side of the Florida Turnpike.
His love of the ocean and adventure led Louie to join the Navy as a diver. He eventually became a SEAL, attaining the rank of Master Chief in Team Six. He saw action in both wars in Iraq and served many tours in Afghanistan. His body was returned Tuesday, along with those of his comrades, to Dover, Delaware.
He belonged to the Naval Special Warfare Development Group at Dam Neck Annex in Virginia Beach. Lou is survived by his wife and two young sons. Rest in peace, my friend.
Information about memorial donations can be found at the website of the Navy SEAL Foundation HERE or by calling 757-363-7490.