Esquire is out today with a article that is garnering mountains of attention. The subject? The story of the SEAL who shot Bin Laden and his miserable personal life after leaving the SEALs. The story (read it here) paints a picture of a traumatized warrior trying to find his way in the civilian world, but is lost. I suspect some read the piece and feel that the Government ought to do something for this young man. Phil Bronstein, the author of the piece, evokes great sympathy for the SEAL who double tapped Bin Laden.
But let me offer you a different take. I think Bronstein’s piece is very accurate and, coupled with the book by Matt Bissonette, provides a detailed account of what happened on the ground in taking out Bin Laden. But Bronstein wimps out in pressing the SEAL on self-pity bullshit. Here is a representative snippet from the Esquire article:
Even before he retired, the Shooter’s new business plan dissolved when the SEAL Team 6 members who formed it decided to go in different directions, each casting for a civilian professional life that’s challenging and rewarding. The stark realities of post-SEAL life can make even the blood of brothers turn a little cold.
“I still have the same bills I had in the Navy,” the Shooter tells me when we talk in September 2012. But no money at all coming in, from anywhere.
“I just want to be able to pay all those bills, take care of my kids, and work from there,” he says. “I’d like to take the things I learned and help other people in any way I can.”
Boo hoo. Am I heartless? Well, let me be a SEALS advocate. I would like to ask this young man some tough questions.
I’d love to buy the boy a beer. Here is what I would tell him:
Dude, when you jumped from a plane as a SEAL, who packed your parachute? You did. Right? Or, at least you ensured that the riggers did their job correctly. You always made sure you had a functioning parachute before hurling yourself from the safety of the aircraft.
So, when you decided that you no longer wanted to remain on active duty with the SEALs, why did you decide not to plan for the next step? Why did you jump to the private sector with no parachute whatsoever. At no time in your successful military career did you move forward without a plan. Hell, your attack on the Bin Laden compound followed extensive rehearsals. Your entire training as a SEAL was predicated on the understanding that perfect prior preparation prevents piss poor performance.
It is time for you to man up and get back to practicing the principles that made you a successful frogman.
Nobody put a gun to your head and forced you out. You made the choice to leave. If that’s what you wanted, your choice must be honored and respected. But inherent in making that choice was the assumption on the part of your friends and superiors that you had thought about next steps. Clearly you did not. And that’s on you.
We are now looking up the ass of a dead horse. We cannot change what you have done. It is what it is. We can only change going forward. The task of defining your dream and pursuing it is yours and yours alone. No one–not your wife nor your children nor your friends–can decide for you what your dream is. That is the choice you now have to make.
In reading Bronstein’s piece I cannot rule out the likely probability that the SEAL shooter is suffering from undiagnosed PTSD. The poor decision making demonstrated in how he left the SEALS and entered the civilian world does not inspire confidence in a prospective employer. And, because of the psychological damage from so much combat, he is not to be blamed because he is a victim.
That last thing this kid needs is misplaced sympathy. He does not need a crying towel. He is in the drowning end of the pool with his hands and feet tied. He has been trained to deal with that contingency, and he needs to reconnect with that part of his core that pulled him throw the drowning exercise.
I have enormous sympathy for this warrior. He can sleep well at night knowing that he was a squared away frogman. But that’s living in the past. He now has to wake up and get on with life. Pulling the trigger is history.