The SEAL Team 6 member who killed Osama bin Laden, identified in a story published Monday in Esquire in cooperation with the Center for Investigative Reporting as “the Shooter,” has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of public interest and offers of support the story has generated.
He told me today that while he appreciates the tremendous response and generosity from across the country and internationally, and the sympathy it generated for these top-tier veterans, it is important to reiterate, as it says in the article, that he is not now and never has been looking for handouts, pity or special treatment.
For six months after his separation from the Navy, after 16 years of service, he was without a job, security protection or health care for his family. He received no pension. Recently, he has begun doing consulting and other work and told me that he is doing fine. He says he has always been independent and resourceful.
As he said repeatedly on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to various members of the House and Senate: “I am going to be fine. This is not about me. I’m doing this for the other guys.” He reiterated today that he agreed to the interviews for the article to raise awareness of how the U.S. treats its highest-level warriors. He also hoped it would begin the necessary steps to fix a broken system. The only way to have gotten the government’s attention, he believes, was to tell his story.
Since then, CIR and Esquire have received more than 500 emails, phone calls and other communications from individuals offering jobs and financial assistance to the Shooter.
He’s now had a few days to absorb the large response to the story and feels awed by the extent of public support. He is also encouraged by the efforts of some CEOs of major corporations to create a foundation and/or nonprofit to funnel donations to that effort and benefit the larger community of special operations veterans.
The Shooter’s story is also part of a larger discussion about the challenges veterans face when they return home. CIR reporter Aaron Glantz has shed light on why the Department of Veterans Affairs is failing to process claims in a timely manner. Veterans who file disability claims are waiting, on average, more than nine months to receive a response from the VA, and some have been waiting years for a decision on their disability benefits.
More than 820,000 veterans are waiting on disability benefits alone, the Shooter among them. And according to the latest reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 252,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are unemployed, and their unemployment rate increased by almost 30 percent over this time last year.
Amid the offers of help and support for this one veteran, CIR has heard many personal stories from other veterans about their struggles after returning home. If you’re a veteran, we want to hear your story.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the number of unemployed veterans and the increase in their rate on unemployment. There are 252,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are unemployed, and the unemployment rate for these veterans increased by almost 30 percent over this time last year.