This week, Esquire published the first-ever interview with the Navy SEAL who fired the shots that killed Osama bin Laden. The story, by Phil Bronstein, offers a compelling glimpse into the life of the Shooter (Esquire protected his real identity), who retired from the Navy in September 2012 and is now struggling to support himself and his family. "What is much harder to understand is that a man with hundreds of successful war missions, one of the most decorated combat veterans of our age, who capped his career by terminating bin Laden, has no landing pad in civilian life," writes Bronstein. Read the entire article here. Some highlights:
1. The Shooter has no health insurance
After suffering for years from the strains of war, including having suicidal thoughts, the Shooter retired early, which left him without health insurance. "I asked if there was some transition from my Tricare to Blue Cross Blue Shield," he told Esquire. "They said no. You're out of the service, your coverage is over. Thanks for your sixteen years. Go fuck yourself." The Shooter pays $486 a month for private insurance, much of which is used to cover lingering health issues from his time in battle, including chiropractic care.
2. He has no job
By retiring early, the Shooter gave up his pension. (The pension alone would have been $2,197 a month, which Bronstein notes is "the same as a member of the Navy choir.") The Shooter has applied to become a consultant on video games, but apparently there's a glut of such experts. The Navy offered him a job in a witness-protection-like program, but it didn't suit him. "They told me they could get me a job driving a beer truck in Milwaukee," he told Esquire. "We'd lose everything." Like many veterans, the Shooter could always join a private security firm, but he says he's tired of using his gun to make a living.
3. He fears reprisals
According to Bronstein:"[H]e has trained his children to hide in their bathtub at the first sign of a problem as the safest, most fortified place in their house. His wife is familiar enough with the shotgun on their armoire to use it. She knows to sit on the bed, the weapon's butt braced against the wall, and precisely what angle to shoot out through the bedroom door, if necessary. A knife is also on the dresser should she need a backup."
4. He's ambivalent about killing bin Laden
"And I remember as I watched him breathe out the last part of air, I thought: Is this the best thing I've ever done, or the worst thing I've ever done? This is real and that's him. Holy shit," he told Esquire.
5. He may have voted for Obama
The SEALs originally planned to surrender if bin Laden's compound was surrounded by Pakistani troops. "We would surrender," the Shooter said. "The original plan was to have Vice-President Biden fly to Islamabad and negotiate our release with Pakistan's president.
"This is hearsay, but I understand Obama said, Hell no. My guys are not surrendering. What do we need to rain hell on the Pakistani military? That was the one time in my life I was thinking, I am fucking voting for this guy. I had a picture of him lying in bed at night, thinking, You're not fucking with my guys. Like, he's thinking about us."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The mystery behind China's aggressive push into space
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- Why Texas' abortion rates aren't falling as quickly as everyone expected
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Yes, Republicans can impeach President Obama
- The 5 best and worst states for a well-lived life
- The 6 best low-cost smartphones
- Why all drugs should be legal. (Yes, even heroin.)
- What religious traditionalists can teach us about sex
- Paul Ryan's anti-poverty plan is another sign of life in the GOP
Subscribe to the Week