He too with death shall dwell,
Nor wake with wings in heaven,
Nor weep for pains in hell”
“The Garden of Proserpine”
The Special Operations Warrior Foundation provides full college scholarships to every child who has lost a parent serving in the U.S. Special Operations Command. As I've written many times elsewhere, our special operators are truly the very best of our very best they train like professional athletes, perform like minor Gods, and lay it all on the line every day in defense of freedom and decency and on our behalf.
Most of them have been deployed over and over and over again, nearly incessantly, for the past 13 years. Their losses have been many times those in the conventional forces because their jobs are absurdly hard and dangerous, and they have to be done, and nobody else can do them. You can read about how the operators saved my life and why I personally owe them a huge debt. Though of course we all do. We all do. Here are just a few of the fallen:
The Spartan Race is for civilians whose lives are too damned cushy and sedentary, and allows maniacs like me to go out there for a day and crawl through mud and jump over fire and throw spears and get pummelled with pugil sticks. On the last day of this month, I am running the Spartan Race South London Super (*) and I am doing it in support of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. You can read more about the crushing training regimen I'm on to get ready for this. Here's what the race is going to be like:
The fallen special operators video up there saved me a lot of time. But it's important to me to mention just two of these fallen superheroes by name.
Adam Brown was a small-town boy from Arkansas who overcame his own demons to rise to the most dizzying heights of the U.S. military DEVGRU, or Seal Team Six. He did this after having his right eye pretty much shot out in a training accident, and having his right hand crushed and pretty much destroyed when his vehicle rolled over on it in Afghanistan.
It's very hard to give any sufficient sense of what selection for Team Six (Green Team) is like. It must suffice to say that 1) only a tiny fraction of the tiny fraction of people who get through SEAL Selection (BUD/S) make it in Team Six; and 2) they do so (mainly) by moving, shooting, seeing, and communicating better than all but a tiny handful of people on the planet. And Adam Brown taught himself to shoot with his off-hand, and with his off-eye and then made it through Green Team that way. Picture a right-handed quarterback forced to throw with his left arm and then making it as a starter in the NFL and you begin to get the picture. Except with one eye. And people shooting at him.
But nothing would stop him. The book about his life is one of the most amazing things I've ever read.
In Afghanistan, Adam was tormented by the sight of Afghan children going around shoeless in winter. So he asked his wife to skip the care packages, and send kid's shoes instead. He personally distributed over 500 pairs plus socks on one deployment alone. He kept a notebook where he marked down their sizes.
He was shot and mortally wounded on a raid into one of the very most remote and forbidding valleys of Afghanistan after having volunteered, instantly, to go into harm's way to protect his teammates. He was a husband and father first, and is survived by his wife Kelley and his children Nathan and Savannah. The photo to the right was taken outside the gates of the base, in his last moments with his family before his final deployment.
Master Sergeant Bob Horrigan was a Delta operator who served under McChrystal as part of Task Force 121 in Iraq. This was the unit that incontrovertibly, and whatever else you think about the Iraq War absolutely DEVASTATED al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), inflicting on them a complete and total battlefield defeat. They did this by building a smart, adaptive, high-tech organization; doing excellent intelligence work; and, mainly, sending out men like Bob Horrigan night after night, on kill-or-capture raids of AQ guys. In fact, they went out several times most nights. This ended when they had more or less taken down every single al Qaeda guy in Iraq. Seriously. (Read this book, or this one, if you don't believe me.)
MSG Horrigan served honorably for 19.5 years, much of it in the only spec-ops unit to rival SEAL Team Six (and the one I'm personally even more in awe of; also the one you know a lot less about, because they're still the “quiet professionals” NAVSPECWARCOM can no longer claim to be). He was two weeks away from returning home to start his retirement process, when he was shot and killed in Al Qaim alongside his friend and fellow operator MSG Michael McNulty. (In his memoir, General McChrystal wrote that these long-time Delta veterans “had children who played on the same soccer teams; their wives were close friends.”) Horrigan was on his fifth combat deployment since 9/11. McChrystal concluded that Horrigan's loss “made the danger very raw. If a man and an operator like Bob Horrigan can get killed, the unavoidable reasoning went, so can I.”
He left behind his wife Denise and his daughter Courtney. They almost got him back. Instead, they sacrificed him for us.
Update: Really just looking for $10 here or $15 there! The big contributions are embarrassing me! (But thanks!!)
This is the middle-length Spartan Race 15km of trail, and 20 obstacles. The "Sprint" at 5km, hardly seemed worth getting out of bed for. The "Beast", at 25km, seemed like madness to start out with. ("Madness? This is")
Actually, I just discovered that anything under $10 is too small. But, Brits, remember ten bucks is less than six quid!