The new movie Act of Valor has me thinking about my Navy days, and so I thought I’d take some time to share with everyone one of my two combat experiences. The first of these took place between the USS Eisenhower and a Greenpeace vessel off of the coast of Mallorca, Spain in 1988. Needless to say the U.S. Navy won that one, so we’ll move on to my other combat experience, which occurred in the Fall of 1989 when I actually fought with a Navy SEAL. What can I say – it was the Cold War, and we didn’t have Osama and his buddies to deal with yet. Idle hands, and all that…
The Navy has two phenomenal special programs: the Nuclear Power Program and the SEALs. One is a grueling, two-year, mind- and soul-numbing training process where the individual is ruthlessly hardened into the finest sailor that planet Earth has ever seen, while the other program is just the SEAL program. What follows is a true telling of what happened when two men from these distinct programs met on the field of battle. I’ll hold nothing back, so it may be best to send the children to the other room.
It was a cold night late in the year, and the soccer team from the USS Eisenhower was engaged in a semifinal game against the SEALs from Virginia Beach. To be blunt, our team was dominating all aspects of play, but we just couldn’t seem to score on the SEALs, mostly because every shot we took seemed to head straight for their goalie. The game was also a very physical one, and as it wore on well into the second half tempers were a bit frayed all around, and things were getting a tad chippy on the field.
There was one SEAL defender in particular who seemed to enjoy jostling me around a bit, and when I had a few choice words for his goalie, Señor SEAL gave me a hefty shove from behind. Now I can’t say that I saw red, but I’m pretty sure that I saw angry little tiki faces flash behind my eyelids, and so I decided that I’d had enough. I turned around and landed a perfectly-placed groin kick that would have dropped the mighty Achilles to his knees, but Señor SEAL had a very different (and frankly, quite stunning) reaction. He blinked. Once. SEAL 1 Nuke 0.
That’s when I had my first thought: Yikes, what do they teach these guys? which was followed very quickly by my second thought: Well, I’m committed now – better go for it. So I took the initiative and tackled him. Ha! SEAL 1 Nuke 1. It’s all tied up now, boys. Game on!
Before we continue I have to answer your obvious question regarding my sanity at the time. To answer such a question you have to understand that those of us in the very super ultra special Naval Nuclear Power Program were at all times subject to spot inspections of our skills and knowledge, and it only seems appropriate that those guys in that other program (which for some reason got all of the hype and press) be subject to the same kind of surprise inspection. Besides, a lot of my tax dollars had been spent training this guy, and I had a right – nay, even a duty – to see if those dollars had been well spent. Now back to the story.
Once I had taken the SEAL to the ground, I unfortunately had my third thought, which was: What the heck am I doing? I could get a red card for this! and I immediately stopped fighting. Yes, it’s true – I was fighting with a Navy SEAL and I was worried about being ejected from the game. Go figure. Anyway, it wasn’t the wisest decision I’d ever made, and it took less than two seconds for me to be pinned to the ground on my stomach and receive a wonderful introduction to the carotid restraint (which isn’t as uncomfortable as you would imagine). Wow. I would’ve been impressed if I had any oxygen going to my brain, but I didn’t so I wasn’t. Spot check satisfactory, and I won’t bother with updating the scoreboard at this point. I was obviously much better suited to splitting atoms.
All kidding aside, in the ensuing years I’ve had the privilege of getting to know a number of SEALs, and have found them to be as extraordinary as we think they are, and I have a great admiration for them and all of those who serve in Special Operations. One of these is my good friend Gunnar Hanson, who spent 12 years on the Teams and as a SEAL Trainer and who is now the Pastor of Valley Baptist Church in nearby Valley Center, California. He’s written an insightful review of Act of Valor, and I encourage everyone to take a look. It is always a good thing to be reminded of the cost, courage and skill necessary to combat evil in this fallen world.
And to that one particular SEAL, thanks for going easy on a scrawny Nuke all those years ago, and sorry about that whole kick in the groin thing. At a minimum it’s good to still have all of my teeth, and at a maximum it’s good to still be alive. You taught a future pastor the perfect definition of mercy, and I hope we can meet under better circumstances one day. God’s blessings to you, and to all who serve.