My mother is Cuban-German, a fatalist. What she knows is that her son jumped out of airplanes (and still does, though now for sport). She never questioned me about what my job entailed, and accepted what I told her, which was very little about the combat. The closest she has come to acknowledging what I did was during the O.J. Simpson trial. I was at her house and a friend of hers was babbling about the murder of Simpson’s wife and the other man. I made a remark about how difficult it is to kill someone with a knife. The visitor undiplomatically asked how I would know. My mother said, “He knows. That was his job in the army.”
When I led a Special Operations sniper detachment my people went in with everything we could use and then some. My idea of a fair fight is two hundred fully armed Delta operators and snipers against one guy tied up in the middle of a football field with both his legs broken. Then I want someone standing by in case I get in trouble.
I don't know if I told you, but I recruited my PRU members from the Saigon jail. Murderers, mostly. They were signed over to me by the Vietnamese authorities. They were totally loyal and I never had to worry about them disobeying an order or chickening out during a fight. I never had to kill one.
In return for a favor, I obtained the two Balthus drawings from my friend, a Lebanese oil entrepreneur, and his English wife. They had been living in Beirut and I helped them when they relocated to Paris in the early 1970s.
In response to a misunderstood or imagined remark he wrote:
Oh, by the way, I’m a certified sniper instructor. There was no rifle then and there is no rifle today that can take out a man at 700+ meters using a silencer. 100-150 meters tops, and that’s with an extended barrel and sonic sound suppressor and special ammunition.
Patton once said that a good soldier does not worry or allow his imagination to influence him. “He must live his life in the very second of the very minute of his present existence.”
You asked what makes a person decide to die. It is a mind set drilled into you by years of training. After you have honed yourself to a fine edge, you are anxious to test yourself. You want to know if everything you believe about yourself is true.
After you have survived a couple of missions you know that you are good at what you do and people look up to you, even your superiors, because you have done things they couldn’t do themselves.
But there’s always that attitude: you have been close to death and it has lost its terror. It doesn’t frighten you anymore. What frightens you is dying before the mission is finished, or letting your teammates down because of a screw-up.
Unbidden, he sent two photographs of himself. In one, dated May 6, 1998, he is outside, dressed in a dark suit and blue tie, leaning against a bare tree and looking suggestively into the lens. There are low brick buildings in the background that are out of focus, but one can see that the roofs are burned out. The other photograph was taken at Tan Son Nhut in 1968. He wears fatigues and dark glasses and is carrying a sub-machine gun with a laser pointer. His mouth is shut in an angry line.
Explain to me what you mean by “at the center of things.” What separates us from other people is we have no ego when it comes to our job. I don’t care to be “at the center” of anything and never have. I don’t particularly care who gets the glory for what I have done. I do things for my own personal reasons, nothing to do with recognition or reward. I believe this is true for 99.9% of our people. In our business being known about is not an asset. The less the people you have to go up against know about you, the better.
As I have said before, we are essentially a closed society and on top of that, we are pretty arrogant and self-sufficient. The great majority of us shun praise, notoriety and the spotlight. We would rather no one know who we are and what we do.