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Friday, August 12, 2011

I Have Met Them
A Fighter Pilot's Tribute to the Fallen Heroes of DevGru

I never met the fallen heroes of DevGru. I did not know their names, never saw their faces. They shun recognition from outside their tribe, thinking those not of them cannot appreciate what they endure, what they accomplish. But I have met them, or men like them.

I know fighter pilots. I know them well. They give pride of place to few. Their arrogance is legendary. I know fighter pilots who can make an airplane sing; who turn the turbulent world of air combat into an operatic ballet, conducting every bar and beat, certain of the denouement. Yet even fighter pilots, in their most private moments, nod with respect to those noble few, who bring death to our nation’s foes by sea, air and land. No man, of any rank or skill, earns respect more than the Navy SEAL.
If I had played the game right, or caught a lucky break, I might earned flag rank. However, I know I do not have, never did have, what it takes to be a SEAL. The selection process is rigorous, the training withering. Many think they could be a SEAL. However, if a candidate demonstrates any weakness of intelligence, dedication, strength, endurance, or the ability to work in a team, they are done. There is no court of appeals. When the staff decides a candidate does not have what it takes to fight alongside their brothers in arms, that person leaves thinking it was his decision. He rings the bell and is grateful.
Grasping the intricacies of advanced training and making the cut are merely the preamble. For the few who do, those who proudly wear the Budweiser, the real challenges begin. They go to places so utterly foreign, and fight foes so thoroughly implacable that to accept the mission willingly places all they have, all they love, at risk in a desperate gamble.
They practice until action seems involuntary. They enjoy the company of men who know, trust and love them in return, in the rough way of warriors. They have certainty in the justice of their cause, and the depravity of their enemies. Fate, however, plays its own games. As they feel the beat of their hearts, they know – as young men should never have to know – that the next beat is not promised; that no matter training, experience or skill, the fog of war is ineluctable. Knowing things can and will go wrong, they taunt fate.
They go into battle, lives trembling in the balance, as do the lives of those who depend upon them. They go, knowing there is something even more important than life: the ideals America represents, best exemplified by the men who fight alongside. They do not dwell on this, nor wear it on their sleeves. Nonetheless, it is there.
I know this, because I have met then, or men like them.
SEALs are as humble in public as fighter pilots can be obnoxious. A fighter pilot may feel he has something to prove, a SEAL knows he does not, at least not before mere mortals. It is enough that he has proven himself to his God and his teammates. 
A SEAL’s lot is privation and hardship, a monastic devotion to fitness, warrior prowess and his brothers. He spends long days of rehearsal, creeping hours approaching contact, and moments of fierce combat. SEALs expect no quarter, give little, and live in each moment, knowing it could be the last. Buttressed by the man to his left and right, the SEAL faces the foe, fights and wins, or fights and dies. He has no ejection seat.
There is a tradition among TOPGUN instructors when departing to leave something for those who will follow. One instructor left a plaque that reads, “For those who know, no explanation is necessary. For those who don’t, no explanation is possible.”
SEALs know … 


Anonymous said...

Spend some time in Coronado CA, and You will meet them, respect them.

H.F. "Pete" Grimm III said...

No doubt. Every SEAL has already earned my respect. Like the pilot who wrote my post, I have met people like them, and welcome every opportunity to meet them, in Coronado and elsewhere. They are the very tip of the spear that projects America's military presence across the globe. True warriors.


My wife is a trauma nurse. She has deployed 10 times in these wars, and has seen much. She and I both do what we can do, but we know there are others that do more. We think about them, thank them, and pray for them daily. We, like you, have glimpsed the "beast" and know that they live in the belly of it. We know that our way of life depends on great men doing great things that they'll rarely tell anyone about for as long as they live...but we know they are there!!