WHAT IS A NAVY SEAL?
Anyone who has begun and completed BUDS(Basic Underwater Demolition
School), America's reknowned frogman training, knows what a SEAL is. That
tends to limit the number of people who can answer the question. For the
rest of the world, the term is hard to define and even harder to explain.
Having long ago finished BUDS, I still have sufficient ego and gullibility
to give anything a try.
I suppose, starting with the basics, a SEAL is a highly motivated,
physically active, intelligent young man with great self-control and a high
tolerance to pain. Many such men begin training but, on the average, less
than a third complete it. The difference between those who do and those who
don't is largely undefinable, and it is extremely difficult to determine in
advance who will drop out and who will finish. For lack of something
better, the ones who make it have more grit or perhaps are simply too
stubborn to quit. Almost all of them are unusual men with a healthy sense
of humor who not only are capable of, but prefer to be given a task and be
left to themselves to complete it. Frequent checking on their progress is
resented and actually counter productive. They work well alone or with
other men like themselves, are highly persevering, and take pride in doing
things others cannot. To sum it up, they are men who like to solve
difficult practical problems, and they like to think for themselves. All
that is true, but not very definitive.
Confronted with the difficulty of defining what a SEAL is, it may be easier
to outline what SEALs are not. They are not men who intend to make a
killing on Wall Street by using insider information or borrowed money. They
are not a Sylvester Stallone, who combines steroids and a contemptuous sneer
to command ten million dollars a picture for portraying tough guys in
movies. They are not men who attempt careers in politics in order to amass
power, direct foreign policy, and risk the lives of young men to attain
political ambitions. They are not men who beat a woman the way Dimi Moore
was supposed to have been by a SEAL in the film, GI Jane. And finally, they
are not men who prefer to risk the lives of others in dangerous activities
such as diving with closed circuit rebreather SCUBA, detonating explosives,
parachute jumping, military combat and anti-terrorist operations. Instead,
in calculated, intelligent ways, they are willing to risk their own. All
that also is true, but not very definitive.
In fact, perhaps the best explanation of a navy SEAL, what he does, why he
does it, and what he thinks was presented in a letter written in October,
1996 by Steven Voigt. Steve, a member of SEAL Team Eight, wrote a letter
to his sister Martha just two days before he was killed in a helicopter crash
in the Persian Gulf. In its simple eloquence, he was better able to say
what I tried to and could not. Being cleverly articulate and emphasizing
the negative don't always get the job done.
Those who set the standards for political correctness may scoff and
consider it corny, but the basis of Steve's letter is Love Of Country and
his willingness to suffer personal hardships to maintain the vast liberties
we enjoy. Our country has military personnel like Steve in all parts of the
world, living as he did and experiencing the same dangers. They do it to
preserve freedoms we too often take for granted. Read his words, and realize
what freedom and America are all about.
"Alarm goes off. I wake up. It's 0600 hours. Same time I woke up yesterday.
And the day before. Actually since June 28, almost 120 days ago. Four
months. That's OK, though, because if anyone in the Persian Gulf tries to
interfere with the policies of my sacred country, the United States of
America, I'll be there to stop them. Two months ago, it was anyone in the
Mediterranean. Actually, we could stop anyone in the world.
Breakfast time. Forty-five minute wait in line. Every meal is the same.
Standing in line sweating. That's OK, though. There are people in my
country who neither know nor care that their freedom is being protected at
this very moment. That too is OK, because I do know. I'm doing it.
Go to work. Same routine day in and day out. It could be compared to being
in jail except that the work we do is too hard and too dangerous to impose
upon a criminal. It would be considered inhumane. That's OK, though, I
understand freedom and the sacrifices that have to be made for freedom to be
achieved. The life we live at the cost of our military members cannot have a
price put on it. If you saw our paychecks, you would understand.
Dinner time. Chicken and rice again. That's OK. The opportunities we have
in the states are limitless. There is nothing that any person cannot achieve
if he/she has the heart. They don't have those opportunities in the parts
I've visited. They don't even have Taco Bell."
Long ago, Thomas Jefferson was credited with saying the price of freedom is
eternal vigilance. Steven Voigt understood that price and paid it.
Sam Orr firstname.lastname@example.org