The Navy SEAL who is responsible for killing Osama bin Laden in a daring raid is now speaking out about the experience of killing a known international terrorist. "The Shooter," as is he known, has also described his life post-raid and the effect his Naval service has had on his life.
"I left SEALs on Friday," the Shooter told Esquire's Phil Bronstein in a groundbreaking interview. "My health care for me and my family stopped at midnight Friday night. I asked if there was some transition from my Tricare to Blue Cross Blue Shield. They said no. You're out of the service; your coverage is over. Thanks for your 16 years. Go [expletive] yourself."
The Shooter has remained relatively silent since the pre-dawn raid that claimed the life of bin Laden, partly for fear of retaliation by bin Laden's supporters. Bronstein scored the first interview with the Shooter, and has been speaking about the Shooter's experience as a way of getting his story out.
"We're actually looking into changing my name," the Shooter's wife told Bronstein. "Changing the kids' names, taking my husband's name off the house, paying off our cars … essentially deleting him from our lives, but for safety reasons. We still love each other," she added.
With the success of "Zero Dark Thirty" came new interest, and a new look, at the secretive raid. The Shooter was the one to fire the fatal three shots and described what watching bin Laden slowly die was like.
"And I remember as I watched him breathe out the last part of air, I thought: 'Is this the best thing I've ever done, or the worst thing I've ever done? This is real and that's him.' Everybody wanted him dead, but nobody wanted to say, 'Hey, you're going to kill this guy.' It was just understood that's what we wanted to do," he told Bronstein.
"I'm not religious, but I always felt I was put on the earth to do something specific," the Shooter explained. "After that mission, I knew what it was."
Though he described bin Laden's death in a graphic way, there was also a moment of tenderness and humanity. Bin Laden's youngest son, only two or three, was in the room when his father was shot.
"He was standing there on the other side of the bed. I didn't want to hurt him, because I'm not a savage. There was a lot of screaming; he was crying, just in shock. I didn't like that he was scared; I picked him up and put him next to his mother," the Shooter said.
Now he faces a life of anonymity and uncertainty, without being able to rely upon the fact that he helped take down one of the world's most wanted terrorists. The Shooter has had a hard time finding work; he's applied to video game developers who work on games such as "Call of Duty" but was told there was a wait list due to other veterans wanting to consult.
It remains to be seen whether the Shooter will receive help from the Veteran's Department.
"It's a 9-month average wait for regular vets to get their disability claim adjudicated," Bronstein told NBC's Matt Lauer. "In this guy's case, his health care that he got, called Tricare from the military, ended the night he left. He gets no pension. None. Zero."