November 11, 2004
by lyle e davis
by lyle e davis
He was 18 years old.
Chronologically, he was
still a kid, but he had been trained for and was acting in a man’s job. It was
his first time in combat and he had killed three enemy soldiers, one of whom
died in his arms.
Taking a human life is a
difficult thing to do . . . at least the first time. I don’t suppose it ever
gets to be easy. This first time was devastating to the young lad. And he had
taken three human lives that day. Three.
Upon returning to base he
went to his chaplain and spilled his guts. The chaplain looked at him, told him
to wait there and left the room. He came back with a fifth of Canadian Club
whiskey and told the young warrior that would help him get through the pain.
It was probably the worst
counseling he would ever receive. It ended up with the young warrior becoming
His name is Richard.
I have had the privilege
of knowing a number of US Navy SEAL team members, one of whom is a close
personal friend. I have also known US Army Rangers and Special Forces members.
These are the elite units of the military.
You want to survive a
combat situation? Become part of an elite unit. They’ll work your butt off,
and you’ll train, train, train. The good news is you’ll wind up being highly
trained in survival, in combat, in firearms, in team operations . . . all of
which add up to you being less likely to become a casualty.
The firepower these units
can muster, if needed, is awesome. The resources they have at their command,
equally awesome. But the missions are also awesome. Often, the missions involve
a ‘sneak and peek’ operation, where the goal is reconaissance, observing the
enemy, his strength, his movement, etc. Other times, the mission is more of the
blood and guts variety . . . which involves killing another human being, often,
in hand to hand combat, up close and personal. Sometimes it’s the garotte,
sometimes a knife . . . sometimes it’s a silencer-equipped automatic. Anything
that works is put to use in eliminating an enemy.
“Terminating with extreme
prejudice,” some call it.
Most of the time the
missions are classified and, even today, are not able to be talked about.
Further, some of the missions are such that the participants never want to talk
about them again. They bring back demons that have disrupted lives . . . have
caused marriages to fail, families to break apart, and, often, alcoholism.
Richard was one of those
who, though a highly decorated SEAL, had become an alcoholic.
Richard put in a full 30
years in the Navy, most of which was as a SEAL. If the service would let him,
he’d still be part of the SEALS. He loves it, he misses it, he misses the
That is not to say his
service tenure was without pain. It wasn’t. Because of some of the assignments
he has had, he found himself drinking more and more, to blur the memories of
what may have transpired that day, or that night, or that week. In time, his
friends, colleagues and SEAL teammates recognized that Richard had become an
alcoholic. Big time.
Fortunately for Richard,
he was happily married to a beautiful Registered Nurse. She was patient to a
fault. Finally, one day, she laid down the law and told Richard in no uncertain
terms he was going to have to rid himself of the alcoholism. There was no
alternative. He had to do it or else. It was what folks today call a“Tough
Love” session. He was going to have to go into de-tox and rehab himself,
because if he didn’t do it voluntarily, she was prepared to have him committed.
“I readily agreed to it,”
Richard says. “I was fully prepared to quit drinking. For that day. Little
did I realize she really meant it when she said I had to stop drinking forever.”
For the next 30 days, she
sat with Richard . . . she nursed him through the Delerium Tremens . . . the
sweats . . . the stomach that would not behave itself, the temper tantrums . . .
Thanks to her, in time,
he had, for the first time in a long time, become sober. He has now been sober
for seven years.
Though he is now retired
from the military he has put his training to good use. He operates on
assignment as a private security ‘escort’ service. Clients who need to go into
other countries and are concerned about their safety and security employ Richard
to provide for their safety. He has traveled the world in this capacity,
recently having returned from China, he’s also been to most of the countries in
Europe, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Asia. . . . and none of
his clients have ever come to harm. He is highly paid for his work.
He has contacts in many
of the countries that provide him with the necessary resources, permits, access,
etc., to make things move smoothly. You don’t serve in the SEALS for 30 years
without developing an extensive and reliable network of people you can count on.
A SEAL, on
duty in Afghanistan
When not on assignment he
is active with his church, Palomar Christian Church, of San Marcos.
One of the missions he
has taken on is to offer his help to anyone who is an alcoholic, or who has an
alcoholic family member.
“I’ve been there. I’ve walked their walk. I know exactly what they’re going
through. I believe I can help them . . . if they want the help.”
Richard tells the story of a Navy fighter pilot: “He was a real hot shot
pilot. God’s gift to Aviation, he felt. He had no time at all for the enlisted
men. They were simply a sea of blue, or a sea of white, people who had no
function in life other than to serve him, Mr. Ace Fighter Pilot.
was on a mission over North Vietnam , five days away from going home. He had
just one little problem crop up. His plane took a hit by a SAM (Surface to Air
Missile). He bailed out, parachute opened - and then he had another little
problem. He landed right in the middle of the enemy. He was quickly escorted
to the Hanoi Hilton where he became just one of many Navy and Marine pilots.
Interrogrations, beatings, elbows tied behind his back, then hoisted above the
floor by that same rope, putting intense strain and pain on his arms, elbows and
body, and then, after a week of this torture, he was moved to an 8’ x 8’ cell.
A cell with no windows, no light, just darkness. Constant darkness. No way to
tell if it was day or night. He had plenty of time to think, to look inside
himself, to examine his philosophies, his way of looking at life. It was a
mental exercise that he would experience often, just to keep from going nuts.
day, he began to hear a sound that he thought sounded like a cricket chirping.
He decided if nothing else, that cricket could keep him company. He felt around
the floor in the dark, searching for the cricket, desperate for some
companionship, even that of a lowly cricket.
didn’t find the cricket. What he found was a stiff piece of wire Tracing the
wire, he found that it led to a small hole in the wall, and to an adjacent cell.
then noticed the “chirping” was actually Morse Code. He
deciphered the message as saying, “Hiya, how you doin’ buddy?”
“Terrible,” he tapped back, again in Morse Code, “I’m all alone, it’s dark, I’m
hungry, I’m cold, and I’m afraid.”
“Sounds to me like you’ve got a disease,” came back the coded message.
don’t think so,” he tapped back. “What disease are you referring to?”
“You have the disease that says you are a prisoner. You are only a prisoner if
you allow yourself to be a prisoner.”
that, said Richard, is the message he tries to get over to those he counsels.
If they have an alcohol problem, it’s only a problem if they allow it to be a
problem. Once they begin to realize that, “we move on to the next step,” he
says, “they have begun their road to recovery from alcoholism.”
Today, just as he has accepted many other missions in his life, he accepts a new
one. “While I am not going out actively recruiting alcoholics to counsel, it
doesn’t work well that way, I am available. It only really works if they make
the first step and seek help, I’m available. Guys, or gals, who are looking for
a friend, a buddy to help them through this, those that are serious about
quitting alcohol . . . I’m available.”
Though Richard is a highly sought after security consultant and is high demand,
he has placed his mission of helping alcoholics above all else. (His
security/escort profession is the reason we are only using Richard’s first name
and no photos of either he or his wife. We also have opted to not show his
wife’s picture or use his name, again, due to security concerns).
“Money is no longer important to me as a primary goal,” he says, “helping those
alcoholics who want and need help is. They come. That is my primary mission.”
Because Richard and his wife are in the midst of moving to new quarters,
The Paper has offered to serve as a clearinghouse and referral agency
for those wishing to meet with Richard. Contact us at: the
firstname.lastname@example.org , or by phone at: 747.7119.
communication is strictly confidential. We will give your name, phone number,
and background to Richard. He will contact you to assist in your battle against
alcoholism. He’s beaten it . . . he can help you, or a loved one, beat it as
well. But the initiative begins with you.