In Seal Team Six English Literature Essay

Herbert Spencer, a renowned philosopher once said, Life is the continuous adjustment of internal relations to external relations Herbert Spencer Quotes. Throughout his life, Wasdin was influenced by the experiences of his childhood, during which he was harshly abused by his stepfather. He decided to enlist after graduating from college, and went on to become a member of SEAL Team Six, an anti-terrorist group known for taking down Osama Bin Laden and various other terrorist leaders. His novel, SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of An Elite Navy Seal Sniper, describes his journey from a poor beginning in an impoverished neighborhood to a distinguished position in the army, and brings the reader through his journey to success. During his narration, he constantly reminds the reader of how experiencing abuse as a child helped him endure hardships and succeed. Howard E. Wasdin encountered many struggles throughout his life, but he was able to became one of the world’s most renowned and deadliest soldiers, as evidenced and shown through his achievements in his life and his overcoming of abuse.

Howard E. Wasdin was born Howard E. Wilbanks on November 8, 1961 in the quiet town of Screven, Georgia. His biological father ran away when Wasdin was a few months old, and his mother engaged and married another man, Leon Wasdin. Howard was born premature, but the clinic was so poor that it didn’t have an incubator. Millie Kirkman, Wasdin’s mother, carried him home in a shoe box, and, for a bed, pulled out a drawer from one of the dressers and put blankets in it. “As a child, I learned to endure forces beyond my control. My mother had me when she was sixteen years old” (Wasdin 25). From an early age, Wasdin learned to adapt and live with a changing situation, an important aspect of a soldier. Belonging to a poor family did not help the fact that he was abused.

“The earliest memory I have of my childhood is when I was four years old – awakened in the middle of the night by a huge man reeking of liquor. He snatched me out of the top bunk, questioning me about why I’d done something wrong that day. Then he slapped me around, hitting me in the face, to the point where I could taste my own blood” (Wasdin 26). Abuse heavily impacted Wasdin, and it stayed with him for the rest of his life. By the time he was five, Wasdin attempted to run away, but was later returned by the police a night later. On the night of his return, Wasdin was nearly beaten to death by Leon, his stepfather. Leon also happened to be a truck driver, and owned pecan trees in the yard of his house. It was Howard’s responsibility to pick up the pecans off the driveway when Leon came home, and “if he heard any pecans pop under his wheels, that was my ass. Didn’t matter if any had fallen since I picked them up. It was my fault for not showing due diligence” (Wadin 28).

In high school, Wasdin participated in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), and he discovered an interest in the military. He was fascinated with the discipline, structure, and nice uniform, and was always the outstanding cadet. It was a nice break from abuse, and after graduating from Cumberland Community College, he enlisted. On November 6, 1983, he reported to the Naval Training Center in Orlando, Florida for three months of basic training, and after basic training, Wasdin committed to six weeks of aircrew training and twelve weeks of search and rescue training at the Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida. Then, he joined the Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Seven as an antisubmarine warfare operator and rescue swimmer. One of Wasdin’s first encounters with war was when his helicopter crashed into the Atlantic Ocean while investigating a Russian nuclear submarine that had sunk while sailing off the coast of Bermuda. Wasdin jumped to action, rescuing the pilot and fellow comrades who had been knocked unconscious by the impact and calling in another helicopter for exfiltration. He was commended for his efforts and invited to join SEAL training, which he completed a year later. At first, Wasdin was assigned to SEAL Team Two, a more basic group, before being promoted to SEAL Team Six. Before being allowed to undergo training for becoming a navy SEAL on Team Six, Wasdin fought in Operation Desert Storm, a conflict between the United States and Iraq that would last for a year, and along with his SEAL Team Two, he took control of a cargo ship disguised under an Egyptian flag that was laying mines in the Red Sea. Also, he destroyed undetonated missiles in enemy territory to make sure they did not get the invaluable technology, and helped Iraqi refugees by transporting food and water. After the operation, Wasdin tried applying for a position on the SEAL teams, and he wrote, “If I hadn’t been a player in Desert Storm, I probably would’ve had to wait another two and a half years” (Wasdin 146). During his occupation as a SEAL Team Six operative, he was wounded in the Battle of Mogadishu, and discharged from the army shortly after. He developed neck problems from his wounds, and after seeing a chiropractor, he was completely cured without any medicine. Wasdin later went on to study at a chiropractic college and open his own chiropractic clinic. (Gray 2)

In Seal Team Six: Memoirs of An Elite Navy Seal Sniper, Wasdin brings the reader through most of his life, from him humble beginnings as an abused child to his great achievements as a SEAL warrior, with a majority of the book focused on his training and life during war. The fourth week of basic SEAL training is aptly nicknamed Hell Week, because trainees have died from being exhausted or overworked, training for five days and five nights on four hours of sleep total. Howard records a certain event during Hell Week: “Instructor Stoneclam said, “Everybody out of the water!” We crawled out of the water and on to the floating steel pier. He made us strip naked and lay down. Mother Nature had prepared the pier by blowing cool wind across it. Then the instructors sprayed us with cold water. Our muscles contracted wildly. The spasms were uncontrollable. Mike said, “Sorry man. I gotta pee.” “It’s okay man. Pee here.” He urinated on my hands. “Oh, thanks, buddy.” Most people think it’s just gross – they’ve obviously never been really cold” (Wasdin 69). Hell Week always starts late at night on a Sunday, and ends at dawn of Saturday. By Thursday night of Hell Week, the trainees only had three to four hours of total sleep since Sunday, and the dream world started to mix with the real world. While enjoying a meal on Thursday morning of Hell week, an instructor said to Wasdin, “You know, Wasdin, I want to you take this butter knife, go over there, and kill that deer in the corner” (Wasdin 72). He looked over, and sure enough, a buck stood still in the chow hall. He crept up to the deer and pounced, only to discover it was the tray table. It was common for an instructor to play a trick like this, as it was their job to “break” the trainees and find their weaknesses. After completing SEAL training, Wasdin went directly to airborne training at Fort Benning, Georgia. He ridiculed the other students at the training, because he felt that coming from SEAL training, airborne training was very easy. Wasdin writes, “Some of the soldiers talked as if the training were the hardest thing in the world. They thought they were becoming part of some elite fighting force” (Wasdin 89). Then, he trained alongside Swedish Special Forces while moving on to winter warfare training in Scotland. About a year after he finished winter warfare training, he participated in Operation Desert Storm, and after Desert Storm, he applied for a spot on SEAL Team Six, and was accepted. However, the worst of his battles was yet to come.

The Battle of Mogadishu, or Black Hawk Down, took place on October 3, 1993, and was one of the bloodiest battles of the twenty-first century for the United States. The goal was to hunt down Somalian warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid, but Wasdin and his comrades were ambushed while pursuing him. In spite of one hundred eighty soldiers fighting against nearly three thousand of Aidid’s forces, American forces managed to capture several high value targets. However, Wasdin was shot by a Somali militant at close range, nearly blowing his right leg off. After the battle, Wasdin was airlifted to the army’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the largest American hospital outside the United States. Upon his arrival, the doctors took him straight to surgery. At first, Wasdin refused to take the general anesthetic, because he was afraid of losing his leg to surgery, but the surgeon eventually gave him an epidural, which numbed him from the waist down. Uncle Earl, from his wife’s family, came to visit Wasdin after the surgery, and was appalled at the stark conditions at the hospital. Wasdin was lying in his own excrement, and was filthy all over. After the epidural, he lost control of his bladder, and there was still dried blood caked on his body from the battle. Maybe the hospital had been too busy to perform proper patient care due to the sudden influx of wounded soldiers from the battle, but after a brief discussion, Earl got the staff to clean Wasdin and replace his bed sheets. Nonetheless, Wasdin contracted a staph infection from the hospital stay, and nearly died. He managed to fully recover, but still had an unexplained wracking pain in his neck. He assumed the pain was some lasting effect from the infection, but after a few visits to a doctor, he discovered that the pain originated from adjusting for his gunshot wound by changing his gait. Wasdin compared his body to a house: “If the basement tilts to the right and sinks a little, the roof follows – except the necks pulls the opposite way” (Wasdin 287). Eventually, a friend recommended a chiropractor to him, and after a few appointments, he was completely rid of the neck pain. This particular event inspired him to pursue an education in chiropractic, and he later graduated with honors as a doctor of chiropractic on September 24, 2009 from Life University in Georgia. Currently, Wasdin runs a chiropractic clinic in Jessup, Georgia. (“Why I became a Chiropractor”)

In his novel, Wasdin revealed a lot of information about his own life. He took the reader through the grueling weeks of SEAL training, and led the reader through several significant military operations, including Operation Desert Storm, the Battle of Mogadishu, and investigating Soviet Submarine K-219. He also goes into detail about suffering PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) after being discharged. Wasdin writes, “I suffered the withdrawal symptoms of being cut off from the camaraderie. I was in culture shock, too. People around town could talk to me about their lives, but I couldn’t talk to them about mine” (Wasdin 272). Moreover, he talked about how he was motivated to become a chiropractor: “After all the neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, and other doctors, a chiropractor gave me back my quality of life,” (Wasdin 293) referring to how only the chiropractor was effective in treating Wasdin’s pain.

Wasdin described his childhood and its later influence on his life. In his novel, he compared his kinfolk to a lion pride, or family. He comments, “When a lion acquires a lioness with cubs, he kills them. Leon didn’t kill me, but anything that was not done exactly right, I paid for” (Wasdin 27). If the chores were not done correctly by the time Leon came home, Wasdin was beaten. If the pecans were not completely removed from the driveway when Leon came home, Wasdin was beaten. If the incorrect number of produce was brought home from the market, Wasdin was beaten. Although Wasdin lived an unfortunate childhood, this helped prepare him both mentally and physically for his military career.

Child abuse is an issue prevalent throughout the world, and it is not a simple matter. As Giardino, a doctorate in pediatrics writes, “It is impossible and inadvisable to consider physical abuse of a child as an isolated incident with one cause and one effect. The ecological model of human development and interaction is generally regarded as an ideal conceptual framework … leading to the nonaccidental injury or physical abuse of the child.” While the relationshop between the amount of stress in an environment and the likelihood of abuse is not completely understood, there is data that suggests that the likelihood of abuse tends to increase when stress increases. Also, some caregivers can handle stress better than others, as evident with Leon, who could clearly not manage his temper. Leon and Wasdin’s mother both came from the poorer regions of Screven, Georgia, Wasdin’s birthplace. This may have contributed to an increased amount of stress experienced by the two parents, and Leon was depicted as an alcoholic in the novel. Wasdin’s parents were both explicitly abusive, shouting expletives and threatening his life. There are many severe and permanent consequences to abuse.

Suffering abuse can completely devastate a child, as they should be receiving love and nurturing instead. Childhood is a period of development during which a person takes in ideas and notions that he/she will retain for the rest of his/her life, and it is crucial that a child lives in a supportive environment that promotes growth. Child abuse has consequences for both society and the victim: “According to a National Institute of Justice study, abused children were eleven times as likely to be arrested for criminal as a juvenile, four times more likely to be arrested for violent and criminal behavior as an adult …” (“Long term Consequences). Five children in the United States die every day from abuse-related injuries, and approximately eighty percent of children that die from abuse are under the age of five. Also, two-thirds of people in drug treatment program report being abused as children. For Wasdin, abuse started at the young age of four years old, when human development starts to quicken. Despite the negative aspects of abuse, it played an important part in keeping Wasdin at the top of his SEAL class and alive in war.

The slap of a belt against skin and the sound of a hand against a face may be stark reminders to Wasdin of his past, but in essence, being beaten prepared him for the physical test of training. Being scared for his life and dreading the next encounter with Leon may have been mentally scarring to Wasdin, but being placed under stress helped prepare him for the mental strain of training. Wasdin mentioned that many of his fellow trainees were more fit and stronger than him, yet did not have the mental toughness required of a SEAL. Among his classmates included an Iron Man triathlete, a college football player, and others. Wasdin writes, “Anybody can be physically strong. A lot of people can show up to training and be able to perform the tasks given to them. Professional athletes and high school sports stars sometimes participate, and they are the first to quit. Mental toughness is just as important as physical toughness, even more so in times of war” (Wasdin 156). These traits kept him alive in war.

Wasdin learned important lessons from suffering abuse as a child. From the “pecan tree” punishments, he learned to be aware of his surroundings and pay attention to every single detail. When he took out the trash and the wind blew the trash can over after he went back inside his house, Wasdin learned to adapt to the changing situation and just deal with it. When he was beaten for bringing home the wrong number of carrots and watermelon, he learned the importance of being exact when counting. These are all aspects of a successful soldier. For example, during the Battle of Mogadishu, Wasdin was the driver of a Humvee, and if Wasdin did not see the militant who had popped up to shoot him, he would likely have been shot to death. When Wasdin was shot, he stayed calm and looked for safety, adapting to the situation. Before the battle, he had checked his weapon magazine for the correct number of rounds, so that it would not jam during a firefight. He also made sure that his medical supplies were adequate; if he had missed a single tourniquet during Battle of Mogadishu, he almost most certainly would’ve lost his leg. While abuse negatively affected Wasdin as a child, it ultimately benefited him later on in life.

Wasdin had a tough beginning as a child, but he took advantage of his struggles and went on to become a renowned soldier, receiving several honors and awards for his valiance in combat. His novel Seal Team Six: Memoirs of An Elite Navy Seal Sniper received acclaim from critics from The Washington Post and Time Magazine, and continues to be a harrowing account of his journey from a victim of abuse to a victorious, decorated veteran.

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