The Shooter describes to the magazine the 15 seconds in which he says he killed Bin Laden in this Abbottabad compound. Photograph: Saeed Shah/MCT via Getty Images
A retired Navy Seal who claims to have killed Osama bin Laden by shooting him three times in the forehead has accused the US military of abandoning him to his fate without any financial support, healthcare or security protection as he makes the hard transition to civilian life.
The former commando was a member of the team of 23 Navy Seals that stormed a house in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on 2 May 2011 and killed the world's most wanted terrorist, according to Esquire. An article in the magazine, written in collaboration with the Center for Investigative Reporting, tells the commando's story as apparently the last person to see Bin Laden alive.
But it is the Navy Seal's caustic comments about his treatment at the hands of the military as he seeks to make the shift back to civilian life that are attracting most attention. The "Shooter", as he is anonymously referred to, tells the magazine that after the Abbottabad raid he felt burned out and decided to take early retirement three years before the official requirement of 20 years' service.
As a result, he said: "my healthcare for me and my family stopped. … 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 sixteen years. Go fuck yourself."
He bitterly remarks that if he had been killed on a special-ops mission, his family would have fared much better than the reality of his retirement. "If I get killed on this next deployment," he told Esquire before he made his final mission to Afghanistan before leaving the navy: "I know my family will be taken care of. College will be paid for, they'll be fine.
"But if I come back alive and retire, I won't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of for the rest of my life. Sad to say, it's better if I get killed."
He was also critical about the lack of security protection he and his family have been provided in the wake of the Bin Laden killing. He told Esquire that the best he was offered was a witness-protection programme similar to that provided for Mafia snitches – he could be given a new identity driving a beer truck in Milwaukee, he was told.
The Seal told Esquire that he had expected the military at least to enhance security at his home which he shares with his wife and children. "Maybe some courtesy eyes-on checks. Send some Seabees over to put in a heavier, metal-reinforced front door. Install some sensors or something. But there was literally nothing."
The navy, responding to questions from MSNBC, said that it could not corroborate the Shooter's account of events and his post-retirement treatment. "We take seriously the safety and security of our people as well as our responsibility to assist sailors making the transition to civilian life. Without more information about this particular case it would be difficult to determine the degree to which our transition programme succeeded."
The commando's criticisms of his treatment are all the more excoriating because of his status, according to Esquire, as the Navy Seal who took down Bin Laden. He describes to the magazine the 15 seconds in which he apparently made history by shooting the spearhead behind 9/11.
"I shot him, two times in the forehead. Bap! Bap! the second time as he's going down. He crumpled onto the floor in front of his bed and I hit him again, Bap! same place … He was dead. Not moving. His tongue was out. I watched him take his last breaths, just a reflex breath."
Experts in veteran care said Esquire had gone too far in its summary of the official response to the Seal's 16 years in the navy. The article says that on retirement he received "nothing. No pension, no healthcare, and no protection for himself and his family."
Derek Blumke, who until last month ran the national mental health programme of the US Department of Veteran Affairs, pointed out that as a combat veteran the Seal would be entitled to healthcare for the next five years as well as disability benefits for life relating to any injuries incurred during military service. But Blumke, who worked for six years as an air force electrician and now heads Student Veterans for America, said that the commando's anxieties about the transition to civilian life were representative of the difficulties faced by thousands of retiring service members every year.
"When I left the air force in 2005 it was the scariest time of my life. I was terrified that I wasn't going to be smart enough to succeed," Blumke said.
Zach Iscol, a former marine captain who runs Hire Purpose, a group that matches military veterans with civilian companies, said the department of defense had made strides in recent years in improving its help for veterans. "Historically, the military is so focused on the mission of war that it hasn't done a good job in setting up those leaving the services for success in civilian life, though that's changing."
Iscol predicted that the Shooter's doubts about his ability to find a meaningful role in civvy street would prove to be unfounded. "As an operator in the Navy Seals he has incredibly marketable leadership skills that countless companies would be delighted to benefit from."