In an interview with Esquire published Monday, the Navy SEAL who says he was responsible for the killing of Osama bin Laden spoke out for the first time.
Referred to as "the Shooter" throughout the story, the man spoke about the raid, his enrollment in the Navy, the often painful transition from warrior to civilian and his life after the April 2011 raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Esquire partnered with the Center for Investigative Reporting for the story.
The assaulters "were immediately put in a box, like a time-out," says the Shooter's close friend, who was not on the mission. "'Don't open your mouth.' I would have flown them to Tahoe for a week."
But even with the SEALs' strong history of institutional modesty, there was no unringing this bell.
The potential for public fame was too great, and suspicion was high inside SEAL Team 6.
The Shooter was among those reprimanded for going out to a bar to celebrate the night they got back home. And he was supposed to report for work the next morning, but instead took the day off to spend with his kids.
Twenty-four hours later came the offer of witness protection, driving the beer truck in Milwaukee. "That was the best idea on the table for security."
"Maybe some courtesy eyes-on checks" of his home, he thought. "Send some Seabees over to put in a heavier, metal-reinforced front door. Install some sensors or something. But there was literally nothing."
He considered whether to get a gun permit for life outside the perimeter.
The SEALs are proud of being ready for "anything and everything." But when it came to his family's safety? "I don't have the resources."
With gossip and finger-pointing continuing over the mission, the Shooter made a decision "to show I wasn't a douchebag, that I'm still part of this team and believe in what we're doing."
He re-upped for another four-month deployment. It would be in the brutal cold of Afghanistan's winter.
But he had already decided this would be his last deployment, his SEAL Team 6 sayonara.
"I wanted to see my children graduate and get married." He hoped to be able to sleep through the night for the first time in years. "I was burned out," he says. "And I realized that when I stopped getting an adrenaline rush from gunfights, it was time to go."