Besides the word ‘sequester,’ perhaps the second most uttered word at the Reagan National Defense Forum over the weekend was ‘O’Neill,’ as in Rob O’Neill, the Navy SEAL who recently claimed to have fired the shot that killed Osama Bin Laden.
In a panel on valor and heroism, Medal of Honor recipient Sal Giunta was asked about O’Neill and other members of SEAL Team 6 who have spoken openly about the kill shot heard ’round the world.
In contrast to many other veterans and service members, Giunta didn’t lecture or verbally shake a finger at the men who have spoken about the raid. Instead he said:
It’s interesting to me to see this come out from these silent professionals.
When I was told I was going to receive the Medal of Honor it hurt my feelings. I was so angry. I was so upset. The fact that I did this with everyone and you want to put an award around my neck and slap me on the back and tell me ‘congratulations’ when I didn’t do it alone.
Two of my buddies gave every single-one of their tomorrows so I could have a today, and you’re going to put a medal around my neck? I struggled with that.
His comments seemed to telegraph a caution to the SEALS that they may not fully appreciate what they do by assuming the mantle of ‘hero’–willingly or not:
[W]hen it was made public, my life changed. …It’s almost been four years since I’ve been out of the military and the fact that someone would call me personally a hero seems inappropriate.
And he added another cautionary note:
I worry about these gentlemen. I worry this is becoming a slippery slope and it puts them in danger.
The enemies will learn and will be better prepared.
While others at the event, such as former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, quietly but emphatically denounced the leaks saying they were a ‘serious mistake,’ Giunta had a different tack:
I wish them peace.
That may be the last thing anyone expected him to say.
Update (11/16/2014, 11:04 pm EST): This story has been changed to reflect that O’Neill has not written a book but has done interviews about his role in the bin Laden raid.