“Howard, you were too hardheaded to listen to Me after you were shot once. You didn’t listen to Me after the second shot. Here, big boy, let Me give you your third bullet hole. Now, do I have your attention…?” – Seal Team Six
In one respect, it was the beginning of the end for Howard Wasdin, one of America’s elite Navy SEAL warriors.
It was 1993 and President Bill Clinton was trying to find a political solution to “Operation Restore Hope” in Somalia, a war-torn country located in the Horn of Africa.
The humanitarian effort, which Clinton inherited from his predecessor, George H.W. Bush, became the focus of America’s military after a State Department cable, which caught the attention of Bush, described the horrible suffering in the country as “A Day of Hell.”
Nearly 25% of Somalia’s children under the age of five were dead, and nearly 2 million more people were in “imminent danger of dying from starvation,” according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. This at the hands of warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid and his foot soldiers.
On August 8, 1993, four American military policemen, serving as part of the United Nations Somalia mission, were killed by an explosive mine. As a result, President Clinton ordered a task force of the military’s most elite forces to take action — Delta Force, Rangers, Task Force 160, and later the Navy Seals, which included Howard E. Wasdin.
“That night, we stayed in the hangar with the rest of the American military, about 160 men in all,” Wasdin writes in “Seal Team Six,” a collection of stories about his life as a Navy Seal sniper. “Each soldier had a 4′ x 8′ place to call his own. On my cot, four wooden poles stood up, one in each corner, to drape a net on to keep the mosquitoes out.
“Hawks swooped down and caught rats the size of small dogs, flying them back up to the rafters for dinner.”
Over the course of the next month, Wasdin expressed displeasure with the Clinton political machine repeatedly tying the hands of military professionals on the ground.
“President Clinton also helped Aidid,” Wasdin recalled of one particularly bloody ambush by the warlord which killed more than one hundred Somalis, “halting combat operations in Mogadishu until an investigation could be completed. Political popularity trumps American lives.”
But on October 3, Wasdin was forced to come to terms with his own mortality. Not only was it the end of a failed military mission, it turned out to be the end a life of self-adoration, invincibility and self-control for Wasdin.
It was the end of a life of an attitude of pride, the end of a life dedicated to suppressing his emotions and feelings, his very humanity. For Wasdin, it was the end of a life of believing his world was made and shaped through his own actions, not guided by a higher power.
It was a routine operation that turned into a well-orchestrated ambush on the streets of Mogadishu. In the end, eighteen Americans were killed and eighty-four wounded.
Wasdin suffered three wounds to his body, including a painful bone injury that nearly cost him his leg.
“Once again, death had just missed me….like all the other misses. I thought maybe Casanova and I could’ve made a difference if we’d been riding in the QRF helicopter flight when the three men died. It hadn’t occurred to me that maybe I could’ve been killed. It hadn’t occurred to me that God was looking out for us,” Wasdin reflected in his memoir.
“Now forty-eight years old and not as cocky, I wonder, Would I have been able to get the enemy before he got me? Maybe people would’ve been coming to my memorial ceremony.”
And while it was the end of one part of his life, it was also an awakening for Wasdin. Through the physical adversity, Wasdin realized his superhuman skills which he used to discipline himself as a Navy Seal sniper were in fact a gift from God.
At his darkest moment, he was humbled by the awesome power of God.
“In retrospect, I see that God was letting me know I was only human, that being a SEAL was just a job… He humbled me and brought me back down to earth,” Wasdin said. “Made me become a father to my children. At the time, no one could’ve convinced me of all that, but looking back, getting shot in the log was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
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