The Situation Room of the White House on May 1, 2011. (Pete Souza/White House)
The U.S. Navy SEAL who shot and killed Osama bin Laden is speaking out for the first time since the May 1, 2011, raid on the al-Qaida leader's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
In an interview with Esquire, the former SEAL—identified as "The Shooter" due to what the magazine described as "safety" reasons—said he's been largely abandoned by the U.S. government since leaving the military last fall.
He told Esquire he decided to speak out to both correct the record of the bin Laden mission and to put a spotlight on how some of the U.S. military's highly trained and accomplished soldiers are treated by the government once they return to civilian life.
Despite killing the world's most-wanted terrorist, he said, he was not given a pension, health care or protection for himself or his family.
"[SEAL command] told me they could get me a job driving a beer truck in Milwaukee," he told Esquire.
Plus, he said, "my health care 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 16 years. Go f--- yourself."
The problem seems to be that "The Shooter" left the military well before the 20-year requirement for retirement benefits.
According to the magazine, the government provides 180 days of transitional health care benefits, but the Shooter was ineligible because he did not agree to remain on active duty in a support role or become a "reservist." Instead, the magazine noted, he will "have to wait at least eight months to have his disability claims adjudicated."
The SEAL also gave his account of the historic raid, including the moment he pulled the trigger and shot bin Laden.
“In that second, I shot him, two times in the forehead," he told Esquire. "Bap! Bap! The second time as he’s going down. He crumpled onto the floor in front of his bed. He was dead. I watched him take his last breaths. 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?
"I'm not religious," he added. "But I always felt I was put on the earth to do something specific. After that mission, I knew what it was."
He also recalled watching CNN's coverage of the first anniversary of bin Laden's death.
"They were saying, 'So now we're taking viewer e-mails. Do you remember where you were when you found out Osama bin Laden was dead?' And I was thinking: Of course I remember. I was in his bedroom looking down at his body."
In September 2012, fellow former SEAL Team 6 member Matt Bissonnette published a controversial book, "No Easy Day," under a pen name about the raid, drawing the ire of both his fellow SEALs and the Pentagon.
A spokeswoman for Esquire told Yahoo News that the magazine did not pay the SEAL for the interview.
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