If it weren't for a certain holy man stepping away from the game this morning, Esquire's amazing profile of a man codenamed "The Shooter" would dominate the news cycle like it should. Writer Phil Bronstein spent a ton of time with the man who actually shot Osama bin Laden—drinking scotch with the former Navy Seal, having him over to his house for days—and through their conversations, he discovered that the Shooter is totally adrift after killing the world's most evil man. He receives no pension, he and his family do not have health insurance, and he says that he's forced to live "like a Mafia snitch," constantly worried about being found-out, or a retaliatory terrorist attack on his family. And, unlike Mark Bissonnette, the Seal Team 6 member who received an ample forward for writing "No Easy Day," the Shooter is in dire financial straits.
Others also knew, from the commander-in-chief on down. The bin Laden shooting was a staple of presidential-campaign brags. One big-budget movie, several books, and a whole drawerful of documentaries and TV films have fortified the brave images of the Shooter and his ST6 Red Squadron members.
There is commerce attached to the mission, and people are capitalizing. Just not the triggerman. While others collect, he is cautious and careful not to dishonor anyone. His manners come at his own expense.
"No one who fights for this country overseas should ever have to fight for a job," Barack Obama said last Veterans' Day, "or a roof over their head, or the care that they have earned when they come home."
But the Shooter will discover soon enough that when he leaves after sixteen years in the Navy, his body filled with scar tissue, arthritis, tendonitis, eye damage, and blown disks, here is what he gets from his employer and a grateful nation:
Nothing. No pension, no health care, and no protection for himself or his family.
Here's the thing: There will be people who actually criticize the Shooter, because he has the audacity to complain about not receiving the health care normally reserved for 20-year vets. I've seen the chatter on Twitter. "Why didn't he just stay in for four more years?" "I have no sympathy for anyone who makes a bad decision." Etc.
There are two major problems, though, with that line of thinking:
1. Regardless of how many years you spend in the military, you should still receive free medical care for injuries you incurred while on duty. The Shooter has a debilitating amount of surface injuries that require constant care. He has no way to pay for them. Then, there are the injuries that exist below the surface, which the Shooter undoubtedly has after 16 years of killing people. No way to take care of those mental injuries either—despite the fact that 22 vets kill themselves every day.
We allow public funds to be dedicated to construction workers who are injured on the job. The guy who killed bin Laden isn't extended the same courtesy.
2. Don't you think the man who did this...
“I thought in that first instant how skinny he was, how tall and how short his beard was, all at once. He was wearing one of those white hats, but he had, like, an almost shaved head. Like a crew cut. I remember all that registering. I was amazed how tall he was, taller than all of us, and it didn’t seem like he would be, because all those guys were always smaller than you think.
“I’m just looking at him from right here [he moves his hand out from his face about ten inches]. He’s got a gun on a shelf right there, the short AK he’s famous for. And he’s moving forward…He’s got a gun within reach. He’s a threat. I need to get a head shot so he won’t have a chance to clack himself off [blow himself up].
“In that second, I shot him, two times in the forehead. Bap! Bap! The second time as he’s going down. He crumpled onto the floor in front of his bed and I hit him again, Bap! same place. That time I used my EOTech red-dot holo sight. He was dead. Not moving. His tongue was out. I watched him take his last breaths, just a reflex breath.
“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."
... deserves better?