American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History - Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, Jim DeFelice (2012)

Chapter 14. Home and Out

DUCKING OUT

It was late August when I left. As usual, it was almost surreal—one day I was in the war; the next I was home. I felt bad about leaving. I didn’t want to tell anyone about the blood pressure, or anything else. I kept it to myself as best I could.

To be honest, it felt a little like I was ducking out on my boys, running away because my heart was pounding funny or whatever the hell it was doing.

Nothing that I had accomplished earlier could erase the feeling that I was letting my boys down.

I know it doesn’t make sense. I know I had accomplished a huge amount. I needed a rest, but felt I shouldn’t take one. I thought I should be stronger than was possible.

To top things off, some of the medication apparently didn’t agree with me. Trying to help me sleep, a doctor back home in San Diego prescribed a sleeping pill. It put me out—so much so that when I really woke up I was on base with no recollection of working out at home and driving myself to base. Taya told me about my workout and I knew I had driven to work, because my truck was there.

I never took that one again. It was nasty.

Taya:

It’s taken me years to get my head around some of this stuff. On the surface, Chris wants to just go and have a good time. When people really need him though—when lives are on the line—he is the most dependable guy. He’s got a situational sense of responsibility and caring.

I saw this in his promotions in the military: he didn’t care. He didn’t want the responsibility of the higher rank, even though it would mean providing better for his family. And yet if a job needed to be done, he was there. He will always rise to the challenge. And he’s prepared, because he’s been thinking about it.

It was a real dichotomy, and I don’t think a lot of people understood it. It was even hard for me to reconcile at times.

PROTECTING PEOPLE

While I was home, I got involved in a fairly interesting scientific program relating to stress and combat situations.

It used virtual reality to test what sorts of effects battle has on your body. In my case, specifically, they monitored my blood pressure, or at least that was the one measurement that really interested me. I wore a headpiece and special gloves while viewing a simulation. It was basically a video game, but it was still pretty cool.

Well, in the simulations, my blood pressure and heart rate would start out steady. Then, once we got into a firefight, they would drop. I would just sit there and do everything I had to do, real comfortable.

As soon as it was over and things were peaceful, my heart rate would just zoom.

Interesting.

The scientists and doctors running the experiment believe that during the heat of the battle, my training would take over and would somehow relax me. They were really intrigued, because apparently they hadn’t seen that before.

Of course, I’d lived it every day in Iraq.

There was one simulation that left a deep impression on me. In this one, a Marine was shot and he went down screaming. He’d been gut-shot. As I watched that scene, my blood pressure spiked even higher than it had been.

I didn’t need a scientist or a doctor to tell me what that was about. I could just about feel that kid dying on my chest in Fallujah again.

People tell me I saved hundreds and hundreds of people. But I have to tell you: it’s not the people you saved that you remember. It’s the ones you couldn’t save.

Those are the ones you talk about. Those are the faces and situations that stay with you forever.

IN OR OUT?

My enlistment was coming to an end. The Navy kept trying to entice me to stay, making different offers: handle training, work in England, anything I wanted just so I would stay in the Navy.

Even though I had told Taya I wouldn’t reenlist, I wasn’t ready to quit.

I wanted to go back to the war. I felt I’d been cheated on my last deployment. I struggled, trying to decide what to do. Some days, I was through with the Navy; other days, I was ready to tell my wife the hell with it, and reenlist.

We talked about it a lot.

Taya:

I told Chris that both our kids needed him, especially, at that particular time, our son. If he wasn’t going to be there, then I would move closer to my father so that at least he would grow up with a strong grandfather very close to him.

I didn’t want to do that at all.

And Chris really loved us all. He really wanted to have and nurture a strong family.

Part of it came down to the conflict we’d always had—where were our priorities: God, family, country (my version), or God, country, family (Chris’s)?

To my mind, Chris had already given his country so much, a tremendous amount. The previous ten years had been filled with constant war. Heavy combat deployments were combined with extensive training workups that kept him away from home. It was more heavy action—and absence—than any other SEAL I knew of. It was time to give his family some of himself.

But as always, I couldn’t make the decision for him.

The Navy suggested that they could send me to Texas as recruiter. That sounded pretty good, since the job would allow me to have regular hours and come home at night. It looked to me like a possible compromise.

“You have to give me a little time to work this out,” said the master chief I was dealing with. “This isn’t the sort of thing that we can do overnight.”

I agreed to extend my enlistment a month while he worked on it.

I waited and waited. No orders came in.

“It’s coming, it’s coming,” he said. “You have to extend again.”

So I did.

A few more weeks passed—we were almost through October by now—and no orders came through. So I called him up and asked what the hell was going on.

“It’s a Catch-22,” he explained. “They want to give it to you, but it’s a three-year billet. You don’t have any time.”

In other words, they wanted me to enlist first, then they would give me the job. But there were no guarantees, no contract.

I’d been there before. I finally told them thanks, but no thanks—I’m getting out.

Taya:

He always says, “I feel like a quitter.” I think he’s done his job, but I know that’s how he feels. He thinks if there are people out there fighting, it should be him. And a lot of other SEALs feel that way about themselves, as well. But I believe not one of them would blame him for getting out.

RYAN GETS MARRIED

Ryan and I remained close after he returned to the States; in fact, our friendship grew even stronger, which I wouldn’t have thought possible. I felt drawn to him by his tremendous spirit. He’d been a warrior in combat. Now he was an even greater warrior in life. You never completely forgot that he was blind, but you also never, ever got the impression that his disability defined him.

He had to get a prosthetic eye made, because of his wounds. According to LT, who went with him to pick it up, he actually had two—one was a “regular” eye; the other had a golden SEAL trident where the iris ordinarily would be.

Once a SEAL, always a SEAL.

I’d been with Ryan a lot before he got hurt. A lot of the guys on the team had a wicked sense of humor, but Ryan was in a class by himself. He’d get you in stitches.

He wasn’t any different after he got shot. He just had a very dry sense of humor. One day a young girl came up to him, looked at his face, and asked, “What happened to you?”

He bent down and said, in a very serious voice, “Never run with scissors.”

Dry, droll, and a heart of gold. You couldn’t help but love him.

We were all prepared to hate his girlfriend. We were sure she would leave him after he was torn up. But she stood by him. He finally proposed, and we were all happy about it. She is one awesome lady.

If there is a poster child for overcoming disabilities, Ryan was it. After the injury, he went to college, graduated with honors, and had an excellent job waiting for him. He climbed Mount Hood, Mount Rainer, and a bunch of other mountains; he went hunting and shot a prize trophy elk with the help of a spotter and a gun with some bad-ass technology; he competed in a triathlon. I remember one night Ryan said that he was glad it was he who got shot instead of any of the other guys. Sure he was angry at first, but he felt he was at peace and living a full life. He felt he could handle it and be happy no matter what. He was right.

When I think about the patriotism that drives SEALs, I am reminded of Ryan recovering in a hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. There he was, freshly wounded, almost fatally, and blind for life. Many reconstructive surgeries to his face loomed ahead. You know what he asked for? He asked for someone to wheel him to a flag and give him some time.

He sat in his wheelchair for close to a half-hour saluting as the American flag whipped in the wind.

That’s Ryan: a true patriot.

A genuine warrior, with a heart of gold.

Of course we all gave him shit and told him somebody probably wheeled him in front of a Dumpster and just told him it was a flag. Being Ryan, he dished out as many blind jokes as he took and had us all rolling every time we talked.

When he moved away, we would chat on the phone and get together whenever we could. In 2010, I found out he and his wife were expecting their first child.

Meanwhile, the injuries he’d had in Iraq required further surgeries. He went into the hospital one morning; later that afternoon I got a call from Marcus Luttrell, asking if I had heard about Ryan.

“Yeah. I just talked to him yesterday,” I told him. “He and his wife are having a baby. Isn’t it great?”

“He died just a little while ago,” said Marcus, his voice quiet.

Something had gone wrong at the hospital. It was a tragic end to a heroic life. I’m not sure any of us who knew him have gotten over it. I don’t think I ever will.

The baby was a beautiful girl. I’m sure her father’s spirit lives on in her.

MIGHTY WARRIORS

After her son’s death, Marc Lee’s mom, Debbie, became almost a surrogate mother to the other members of our platoon. A very courageous woman, she has dedicated herself to helping other warriors as they have made the transition from the battlefield. She’s now president of America’s Mighty Warriors (www.AmericasMightyWarriors.org) and has done a lot personally for veterans through what she calls “random acts of kindness” inspired by Marc’s life and a letter he wrote to her before he passed away.

There’s nothing random about Debbie; she’s a dedicated and hardworking woman, as devoted to her cause as Marc was to his.

Before he died, Marc wrote an incredible letter home. Available at the site, it told a moving story about some of the things he saw in Iraq—a terrible hospital, ignorant and despicable people. But it was also an extremely positive letter, full of hope and encouraging all of us to do some small part for others.

To my mind, though, whatever he wrote home doesn’t adequately describe the Marc we all knew. There was a lot more to him. He was a real tough guy with a great sense of humor. He was a gung-ho warrior and a great friend. He had unshakable faith in God and loved his wife with might. Heaven is surely a better place because he’s there, but earth has lost one of its best.

CRAFT

Deciding to leave the Navy was hard enough. But now I was going to be out of a job. It was time to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.

I had a number of options and possibilities. I’d been talking with a friend of mine named Mark Spicer about starting a sniper school in the States. After twenty-five years in the British Army, Mark retired as a sergeant major. He was one of the foremost snipers in their army, and had served over twenty years as a sniper and sniper platoon commander. Mark has written three books on sniping and is one of the world’s leading experts on the subject.

We both realized there was and is a need for certain types of very specific training for military and police units. No one was providing the sort of hands-on instruction that would help prepare their personnel for the different situations they might find. With our experience, we knew we could tailor courses and provide enough range time to make a difference.

The problem was getting everything together to do it.

Money, of course, was a pretty big consideration. Then, partly by chance, I happened to meet someone who realized the company could be a good investment, and who also had faith in me: J. Kyle Bass.

Kyle had made a lot of money investing, and when we met, he was looking for a bodyguard. I guess he figured, “Who better than a SEAL?” But when we got talking and he asked where I saw myself in a few years, I told him about the school. He was intrigued, and rather than hiring me as his bodyguard, he helped provide the financing for our company. And just like that, Craft International was born.

Actually, it wasn’t “just like that”—we busted butt to get it going, working long hours and sweating out all the details the way any entrepreneurs do. Two other guys joined Mark and me to form the ownership team: Bo French and Steven Young. Their areas of expertise have more to do with the business side of things, but they’re both knowledgeable about weapons and the tactics that we teach.

Today, Craft International’s corporate offices are in Texas. We have training sites in Texas and Arizona and work internationally on security measures and other special projects. Mark can occasionally be seen on the History channel. He’s pretty comfortable in front of the cameras, so at times he’ll relax into a real thick British accent. The History channel is kind enough to translate his thick accent into good ’ol boy English with subtitles. We have yet to need subtitles for any Craft courses, but we haven’t ruled out the possibility.

We’ve assembled a team we believe is the best of the best in their given areas for all the areas of training we provide. (You can find more information at www.craftintl.com.)

Building a company involves a lot of different skills I didn’t think I had. It also includes a ton of admin work.

Damn.

I don’t mind hard work, even if it is at a desk. One of the pullbacks on this job is that it’s given me “Dell hand”—I spend a lot of time pounding a computer keyboard. And every blue moon I have to wear a suit and tie. But otherwise, it’s a perfect job for me. I may not be rich, but I enjoy what I do.

The logo for Craft came from the Punisher symbol, with a crusader crosshair in the right eye in honor of Ryan Job. He also inspired our company slogan.

In April 2009, after Somali pirates had taken over a ship and were threatening the captain with death, SEAL snipers killed them from a nearby destroyer. Someone from the local media asked Ryan what he thought.

“Despite what your mama told you,” he quipped, “violence does solve problems.”

That seemed a pretty appropriate slogan for snipers, so it became ours.

BACK IN TEXAS

I was still conflicted about leaving the Navy, but knowing that I was going to start Craft gave me more incentive. When the time finally came, I couldn’t wait.

After all, I was going back home. Was I in a hurry? I got out of the Navy November 4; on November 6, I was kicking Texas dust.

While I was working on Craft International, my family stayed back in the San Diego area, the kids finishing up with school and Taya getting the house ready to sell. My wife planned to have everything wrapped up in January so we could be reunited in Texas.

They came out at Christmas. I’d been missing the kids and her terribly.

I pulled her into the room at my parent’s place and said, “What do you think about going back by yourself? Leave the kids with me.”

She was tickled. She had a lot to do, and while she loved our children, taking care of them and getting the house ready to sell was exhausting.

I loved having my son and daughter with me. I had a big assist from my parents, who helped watch them during the week. Friday afternoons I’d take the kids and we’d have Daddy vacations for three and sometimes four days at a shot.

People have an idea in their heads that fathers aren’t able to spend comfortable time with very young children. I don’t think that’s true. Hell, I had as much fun as they did. We’d mess around on a trampoline and play ball for hours. We’d visit the zoo, hit the playgrounds, watch a movie. They’d help Dad grill. We all had a great time.

When my daughter was a baby, it took a bit of time for her to warm up to me. But gradually, she came to trust me more, and got used to having me around. Now she is all about her daddy.

Of course, she had him wrapped around her little finger from day one.

I began teaching my son how to shoot when he was two, starting with the basics of a BB rifle. My theory is that kids get into trouble because of curiosity—if you don’t satisfy it, you’re asking for big problems. If you inform them and carefully instruct them on safety when they’re young, you avoid a lot of the trouble.

My son has learned to respect weapons. I’ve always told him, if you want to use a gun, come get me. There’s nothing I like better than shooting. He already has his own rifle, a .22 lever-action, and he shoots pretty good groups with it. He’s amazing with a pistol, too.

My daughter is still a little young, and hasn’t shown as much interest yet. I suspect she will soon, but in any event, extensive firearms training will be mandatory before she is allowed to date . . . which should be around the time she turns thirty.

Both kids have gone out hunting with me. They’re still a little young to focus for long periods of time, but I suspect they’ll get the hang of it before too long.

Taya:

Chris and I have gone back and forth about how we would feel if our children went into the military. Of course we don’t want them to be hurt, or for anything to happen to them. But there are also a lot of positives to military service. We’ll both be proud of them no matter what they do.

If my son was to consider going into SEALs, I would tell him to really think about it. I would tell him that he has to be prepared.

I think it’s horrible for family. If you go to war, it does change you, and you have to be prepared for that, too. I’d tell him to sit down and talk to his father about the reality of things.

Sometimes I feel like crying just thinking about him in a firefight.

I think Chris has done enough for the country so that we can skip a generation. But we’ll both be proud of our children no matter what.

Settling in Texas got me closer to my parents on a permanent basis. Since I’ve been back with them, they tell me some of the shell that I built up during the war has melted away. My father says that I closed off parts of myself. He believes they’ve come back, somewhat at least.

“I don’t think you can train for years to kill,” he admits, “and expect all that to disappear overnight.”

DOWN IN THE DEPTHS

With all this good stuff going on, you’d think I was living a fairy tale or a perfect life. And maybe I should be.

But real life doesn’t travel in a perfect straight line; it doesn’t necessarily have that “all lived happily ever after” bit. You have to work on where you’re going.

And just because I had a great family and an interesting job didn’t mean things were perfect. I still felt bad about leaving the SEALs. I still resented my wife for presenting me with what felt like an ultimatum.

So even though life should have been sweet, for some months after getting out of the service, it felt like it was plunging down a mineshaft.

I started drinking a lot, pounding back beers. I’d say I went into a depression, feeling sorry for myself. Pretty soon drinking was all I did. After a while, it was hard liquor, and it was all through the day.

I don’t want to make this sound more dramatic than it really is. Other people have faced more difficult problems. But I was certainly headed in the wrong direction. I was going downhill and gathering speed.

Then one night I turned a corner too fast in my truck. Now, maybe there were extenuating circumstances, maybe the road was slippery or something else was out of whack. Or maybe that guardian angel that had saved me back in Ramadi decided to intervene.

Whatever. All I know is I totaled my truck and came out without a scratch.

On my body. My ego was something else again.

The accident woke me up. I’m sorry to say that I needed something like that to get my head back straight.

I still drink beer, though not nearly to excess.

I think I realize everything I have, and everything I could lose. And I also understand not just where my responsibilities are but how to fulfill them.

GIVING BACK

I’m starting to understand the contributions I can make to others. I realize that I can be a complete man—taking care of my family and helping in a small way to take care of others.

Marcus Luttrell started an organization called Lone Survivor Foundation. It gets some of our wounded warriors out of the hospital and into situations where they can enjoy themselves a little. After being wounded in Afghanistan, Marcus said he healed twice as fast at his mom’s ranch than he had in the hospital. Something about the open air and being able to roam around naturally helped the process. That’s one of the inspirations for his foundation, and it’s become one of my guiding principles as I try to do my small share.

I’ve gotten together with some people I know around Texas who have ranches and asked if they could donate their places for a few days at a time. They’ve been more than generous. We’ve had small groups of servicemen disabled in the war come in and spend time there hunting, shooting guns on a range, or just hanging out. The idea is to have a good time.

I should mention that my friend Kyle—the same guy who was a driving force behind getting Craft afloat—is also extremely patriotic and supportive of the troops. He graciously allows us to use his beautiful Barefoot Ranch for many of our retreats for the wounded troops. Rick Kell and David Feherty’s organization, Troops First, also works with Craft to help as many wounded guys as we can.

Hell, I’ve had a bunch of fun myself. We go hunting a couple of times a day, shoot a few rounds on the range, then at night trade stories and beers.

It’s not so much the war stories as the funny stories that you remember. Those are the ones that affect you. They underline the resilience of these guys—they were warriors in the war, and they take that same warrior attitude into dealing with their disabilities.

As you’d expect if I’m involved, there’s a lot of bustin’ going on back and forth, giving each other hell. I don’t always get the last laugh, but I do take my shots. The first time I had some of them out to one of the ranches, I took them out on the back porch before we started shooting and gave them a little orientation.

“All right,” I told them, picking up my rifle, “since none of you are SEALs, I better give you some background. This here is a trigger.”

“Screw you, Squid!” they shouted, and we had a good time from there on out, pushing each other and making fun.

What wounded veterans don’t need is sympathy. They need to be treated like the men they are: equals, heroes, and people who still have tremendous value for society.

If you want to help them, start there.

In a funny way, bustin’ back and forth shows more respect than asking “Are you okay?” in a sickly sweet voice.

We’ve only just begun, but we’ve had good enough success that the hospitals are very cooperative. We’ve been able to expand the program to include couples. We’re aiming to do maybe two retreats a month going forward.

Our work has gotten me thinking bigger and bigger. I wouldn’t mind doing a reality hunting show with these guys—I think it could inspire a lot of other Americans to really give back to their veterans and their present military families.

Helping each other out—that’s America.

I think America does a lot to support people. That’s great for those truly in need. But I also think we create dependency by giving money to those who don’t want to work, both in other countries and our own. Help people help themselves—that’s the way it should be.

I’d like us to remember the suffering of those Americans who were injured serving this country before we dole out millions to slackers and moochers. Look at the homeless: a lot are vets. I think we owe them more than just our gratitude. They were willing to sign a blank check for America, with the cost right up to their life. If they were willing to do that, why shouldn’t we be taking care of them?

I’m not suggesting we give vets handouts; what people need are hand-ups—a little opportunity and strategic help.

One of the wounded vets I met at the ranch retreats has an idea to help homeless vets by helping build or renovate housing. I think it’s a great idea. Maybe this house won’t be where they live forever, but it’ll get them going.

Jobs, training—there’s an enormous amount that we can do.

I know some people will say that you’ll have a bunch just taking advantage. But you deal with that. You don’t let it ruin things for everyone.

There’s no reason someone who has fought for their country should be homeless or jobless.

WHO I AM

It’s taken a while, but I have gotten to a point where being a SEAL no longer defines me. I need to be a husband and a father. Those things, now, are my first calling.

Being a SEAL has been a huge part of me. I still feel the pull. I certainly would have preferred having the best of both worlds—the job and the family. But at least in my case, the job wouldn’t allow it.

I’m not sure I would have either. In a sense, I had to step away from the job to become the fuller man my family needed me to be.

I don’t know where or when the change came. It didn’t happen until I got out. I had to get through that resentment at first. I had to move through the good things and the bad things to reach a point where I could really move ahead.

Now I want to be a good dad and a good husband. Now I’ve rediscovered a real love for my wife. I genuinely miss her when I’m on a business trip. I want to be able to hug her and sleep next to her.

Taya:

What I loved about Chris in the beginning was the way he unabashedly wore his heart on his sleeve. He didn’t play games with my heart or my head. He was a straight shooter who seemed to back up his feelings in actions: spending an hour and a half to drive up to see me, then leaving in time for work at five a.m.; communicating; putting up with my moods.

His sense of fun balanced out my serious side and brought out the youthful side of me. He was up for anything and completely supportive of anything I wanted or dreamed of. He got along famously with my family and I did with his.

When our marriage reached a crisis, I said I wouldn’t love him the same if he reenlisted again. It wasn’t that I didn’t love him, but I felt that his decision would confirm what I thought was becoming increasingly evident. In the beginning, I believed he loved me more than anything. Slowly the Teams started to become his first love. He continued to say the words and tell me what he felt I needed to hear and what he had always said in the past to express his love. The difference is, the words and actions were no longer meshing. He still loved me but it was different. He was consumed by the Teams.

When he was away, he would tell me things like “I would do anything to be home with you,” and “I miss you,” and “You are the most important thing in the world to me.” I knew if he joined up again that all of what he had been telling me over the past years were mostly words or feelings in theory, rather than feelings expressed in actions.

How could I love with the same reckless abandon if I knew I was not what he said I was? I was second fiddle at best.

He would die for strangers and country. My challenges and pain seemed to be mine alone. He wanted to live his life and have a happy wife to come home to.

At the time, it meant everything I loved in the beginning was changing and I would have to love him differently. I thought it might be less, but it turns out it was just different.

Just like in any relationship, things changed. We changed. We both made mistakes and we both learned a lot. We may love each other differently, but maybe that is a good thing. Maybe it is more forgiving and more mature, or maybe it is just different.

It is still really good. We still have each other’s backs and we’ve learned that even through the tough times, we don’t want to lose each other or the family we’ve built.

The more time that goes by the more we are each able to show each other love in ways the other one understands and feels.

I feel like my love for my wife has gotten deeper over the past few years. Taya bought me a new wedding ring made of tungsten steel—I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it’s the hardest metal she could find.

It has crusader crosses on it, too. She jokes that it’s because marriage is like a crusade.

Maybe for us it has been.

Taya:

I feel something coming from him that I hadn’t felt before.

He’s definitely not the person he was before the war, but there are a lot of the same qualities. His sense of humor, his kindness, his warmth, his courage, and a sense of responsibility. His quiet confidence inspires me.

Like any couple, we still have our day-to-day life things we have to work through, but most importantly, I feel loved. And I feel the kids and I are important.

WAR

I’m not the same guy I was when I first went to war.

No one is. Before you’re in combat, you have this innocence about you. Then, all of a sudden, you see this whole other side of life.

I don’t regret any of it. I’d do it again. At the same time, war definitely changes you.

You embrace death.

As a SEAL, you go to the Dark Side. You’re immersed in it. Continually going to war, you gravitate to the blackest parts of existence. Your psyche builds up its defenses—that’s why you laugh at gruesome things like heads being blown apart, and worse.

Growing up, I wanted to be military. But I wondered, how would I feel about killing someone?

Now I know. It’s no big deal.

I did it a lot more than I’d ever thought I would—or, for that matter, more than any American sniper before me. But I also witnessed the evil my targets committed and wanted to commit, and by killing them, I protected the lives of many fellow soldiers.

I don’t spend a lot of time philosophizing about killing people. I have a clear conscience about my role in the war.

I am a strong Christian. Not a perfect one—not close. But I strongly believe in God, Jesus, and the Bible. When I die, God is going to hold me accountable for everything I’ve done on earth.

He may hold me back until last and run everybody else through the line, because it will take so long to go over all my sins.

“Mr. Kyle, let’s go into the backroom. . . .”

Honestly, I don’t know what will really happen on Judgment Day. But what I lean toward is that you know all of your sins, and God knows them all, and shame comes over you at the reality that He knows. I believe the fact that I’ve accepted Jesus as my savior will be my salvation.

But in that backroom or whatever it is when God confronts me with my sins, I do not believe any of the kills I had during the war will be among them. Everyone I shot was evil. I had good cause on every shot. They all deserved to die.

My regrets are about the people I couldn’t save—Marines, soldiers, my buddies.

I still feel their loss. I still ache for my failure to protect them.

I’m not naive and I’m beyond romanticizing war and what I had to do there. The worst moments of my life have come as a SEAL. Losing my buddies. Having a kid die on me.

I’m sure some of the things I went through pale in comparison to what some of the guys went through in World War II and other conflicts. On top of all the shit they went through in Vietnam, they had to come home to a country that spat on them.

When people ask me how the war changed me, I tell them that the biggest thing has to do with my perspective.

You know all the everyday things that stress you here?

I don’t give a shit about them. There are bigger and worse things that could happen than to have this tiny little problem wreck your life, or even your day. I’ve seen them.

More: I’ve lived them.