Former Navy SEAL Team 6 Sniper Tells Story of His Last Rescue
Howard was an elite Navy SEAL Team 6 sniper based out of Virginia Beach. In 1993, he was deployed to Mogadishu, Somalia and was involved in a daytime military operation, which was intended to last no more than an hour. That operation turned into what is now known as the Battle at Mogadishu and inspired the Hollywood blockbuster movie, “Black Hawk Down.” Howard was shot in the legs three times and almost lost his right one. Once he returned home, Howard was prepared to take on the difficult physical therapy necessary for his healing which he knew would take months. However, he was unaware of another battle that awaited him when he returned home. Howard held on to secret hope that he would resume his SEAL career and previous lifestyle. That dream began to slip away. “I had survived, but it was possible that my career had not,” says Howard. He realized that his future might not be with SEAL team and had no idea what else to do. “The longer my recovery went on, I began to lose the war of the mind,” says Howard.
In 1996, Howard and his wife, Katherine, divorced. At the time, they were members of The Church of Latter Day Saints, which soon informed Howard he could no longer attend. (He had a basic Christian faith but converted to Mormonism when he married.) Howard was angry that he had been injured, that his marriage failed and that his church rejected him. So he started drinking every night. “Getting liquored up didn’t make me feel happy, but it kept my problems just far enough at bay that I could sleep,” says Howard. This went on for a year before a minister helped Howard understand that God was not punishing him for the things he had done in battle. This is what Howard says was the beginning of the slow healing of his relationship with the Lord. “I knew I had to quit being so cynical and blaming God for everything,” says Howard.
GETTING IT TOGETHER
He drifted in and out of relationships and jobs. “I had gone from rock star to rock bottom,” says Howard. In 2002, Howard was selling cars and friends set him with Debbie, whom he married later. Debbie was a Christian who had stayed in a psychologically abusive marriage for 12 years trying to make it work. As Howard’s wife, Debbie was frustrated about the secrets and pain he kept locked inside. Howard had PTSD from his childhood (he had an extremely abusive stepfather who beat him regularly and violently) as well as from his Navy career. Debbie encouraged Howard to get counseling and go back to school to become a chiropractor (he had gotten pain free after getting chiropractic care). After four years of scholarships, tight budgeting and a grueling schedule apart, Howard’s future finally became more than being an ex-SEAL.
In 2010, Howard and another former SEAL wrote a book about what goes on during SEAL training. Their book, Seal Team Six, was scheduled to come out in mid-May, 2011. After the killing of Osama Bin Laden on May 2, 2011, the publisher changed the release date. Howard embarked on non-stop TV, radio and print interviews and the book spent 22 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list.
When he speaks to audiences in churches or corporations, Howard’s message is the same: You’ve got to love and forgive. “As long as I pointed the finger, I was trapped,” says Howard. “The minute I decided that Howard Wasdin was going to take responsibility and not blame others for his life, I became a better man.” Getting counseling helped Howard tremendously. “Admitting you have a problem is huge. I had to admit, “There is a problem with me,’” he says. “No one knew my heart was broken.” Howard reminds us that there are battles we will all face and fight. “Life is about surrendering to God and letting Him bring us through places of great pain to places of even greater victory.”