Former SEAL Team Six operator Rob O’Neill’s revelations that he was the man who killed Usama bin Laden have sent ripples through the Special Operations community. “We just don’t talk about the things we do,” is the standard comment. Some comments are much harsher, and many of his former colleagues have abandoned him.
I’m sympathetic. I’m a “graduate” of one of the special units whose members don’t talk about what they do or, more importantly, what they’ve done.
Even after leaving the military and staying "engaged" for many years in activities abroad, I’ve spurned all requests to talk about it. None, of course, were as significant by any means as what O’Neill did, but all were of importance to national security.
So when called by the "Hannity" folks to appear on a special with Rob O’Neill and families of 9/11 victims, I knew I had a responsibility to the "community" to praise him for his service but at the same time admonish him for talking too much.
I was wrong.
After watching Peter Doocey’s two hour special with Rob O’Neill and after being in the Green Room at Fox and watching family members of innocent victims of 9/11 talk with him, it struck me how important Rob’s message is.
In this one particular case, the code of silence shouldn’t apply.
Family members and friends of the victims of 9/11 deserve to hear the details of how bin Laden died from the man who killed him. To them and indeed to many Americans, his message brings a sense of closure that one wouldn’t find simply reading an account of the raid.
Unpretentious in his message and avoiding the narcissism which many might assume would accompany it, O’Neill is collectively laudatory of every member of the team, the helicopter crews who flew them in and out, and the many individuals all the way to the intelligence and CIA professionals who worked so hard to identify bin-Laden’s location. In many respects it’s not just his story. It’s theirs as well.
The fact is that Rob O’Neill epitomizes the greatness of our veterans. He wasn’t “picked” to be the man who killed bin Laden. It could have been any man on the team who undertook the raid. But as O’Neill points out, circumstances put him there as he followed a fellow team member who reached the floor where bin Laden was expected to be.
As his teammate threw himself on two women out of concern they might be wearing suicide vests, O’Neill encountered bin Laden and killed him.
Instead of pillorying O’Neill, as is being done by the highest levels of the special operations and SEAL communities by the same "leaders" who were resoundingly quiet as the White House and Pentagon released classified details of the raid to the public and to Hollywood, it’s time to take a collective breath and realize the value of what O’Neill is doing.
His words bring comfort and closure to millions of Americans. It’s a story worth being told and a story worth hearing.
Bill Cowan is a retired Marine, Fox News military analyst, and founding member of the Intelligence Support Activity. He has been to Iraq 13 times since U.S. forces withdrew in 2012.