The difficulty military veterans have experienced finding work when they return home from war is well established. In extreme cases, the situation is so dire that poverty and homelessness ensue. It is often irrelevant what you have achieved in the military — no man or woman is immune to the pitfalls of civilian reintegration.
In the case of the Navy Seal who shot Osama Bin Laden this striking trend is rendered even more unbelievable and even less unacceptable. Though he is anonymously known only as “The Shooter,” this American hero who breathed life into President Obama’s first term is currently one of the extreme cases, living in poverty and struggling to stay with his family. Speaking to Phil Bronstein, Executive Chair of the Center for Investigative Reporting for Esquire, The Shooter says he feels neglected by the US Government:
What is [hard] 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,”
Part of his problem lies in that he retired 36 months before the 20-year requirement for retirement benefits. The military adheres strictly to the 20-year date, but in this case one would assume The Shooter’s departure from the armed forces was vital to his safety and the safety of others. Preserving the man responsible for such a touchstone accomplishment is surely part and parcel with his exit from the SEALs, though he does admit to being “burned out” post-Osama.
When The Shooter asked his former “employer” how to make it in the real world he was told to find a job driving a truck. When he refused he was left with no way to make money and was provided no health insurance for his family:
My health care for me and my family stopped,” he said. “I asked if there was some transition from my Tricare to Blue Cross Blue Shield. They said no. You’re out of service, your coverage is over. Thanks for your sixteen years. Go f*ck yourself.”
The $25 million Bin Laden bounty was never collected by Seal Team 6 and The Shooter notes that had he stayed in combat and been killed his family would be fully protected in terms of health insurance. Instead, he joins some 1.3 million veterans who are currently uninsured. That’s one in ten.
The harsh transition to civilian life has left The Shooter with doubts about the act that led him to anonymous fame:
“[Bin Laden] crumpled onto the floor in front of his bed. He was dead. I watched him take his last breaths,” the Shooter recalls. “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?”
He appears to have ended his own life, at least as he knew it, as well.
FOR MORE: The Guardian has a nice roundup of the Esquire article.