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O'Reilly: 9/11 closure comes at a cost for Navy SEAL

A U.S. Navy Seal Team Six patch on

A U.S. Navy Seal Team Six patch on display in Ashtabula, Ohio. Credit: AP

There's an American in need of help.

He's not just any American -- he's the man who killed Osama bin Laden.

Twenty-one months after firing the three shots heard 'round the world that ended the life of one of history's most notorious terrorists, the semi-anonymous shooter is now out of the military, and he's broke.

Besides the idiot White House official who leaked the name of his unit to a reporter, it's no one's fault. Who could have foreseen the shooter's unique circumstances?

But, nonetheless, this American hero is back home unemployed, without health insurance and in legitimate need of expensive, long-term security for his family. They will unquestionably remain a target for al-Qaida, its affiliates or any lone wolf terrorist wannabe for years to come.

This is no time for finger pointing -- how can our government have let him down, some are already asking -- it's time for ordinary Americans to step up and help. A few bucks from a great many people will provide the resources the SEAL Team 6 veteran and his family need.

We learn of his plight from veteran war correspondent and editor Phil Bronstein who penned a compelling, 15,000-word article on the bin Laden shooter that appears in Esquire this week. It's the first time the 16-year Navy veteran has told a reporter his story, and it's a tough one to read. While the article has come under criticism for neglecting to mention some benefits the shooter is entitled to, it nevertheless seems clear that the former Navy SEAL needs help.

The man fate chose to confront bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, is now in failing health, and because he left the service before the standard 20-year retirement period, he does not qualify for a pension. He and his family seriously need to go underground, but there is no witness protection program for hero SEAL Team 6 members who happen to shoot Osama bin Laden, only one for criminals, and that program is not befitting an American hero.

The shooter -- who is not identified by name in the Esquire story -- and his wife are working on changing the last name of their children. These same kids have been instructed where the "go-bags" are and how and where to hide should their front door be breached or should gunfire come through the windows. This is the kind of thing they will be forced to think about forever.

It's tempting to use this story as a hook to talk about the challenges facing all veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and that conversation needs to continue. But first things first: The bin Laden shooter and his family are in danger, and it's up to us as individual Americans to do something about it.

Last year, an elderly school bus monitor outside of Rochester was videotaped being verbally harassed in the back of a bus by a pack of cruel middle-school boys. A fund was created on her behalf at In 30 days, the "Let's Give Karen -- the Bus Monitor -- a Vacation" fund raised more than $700,000.

If concerned citizens could raise that much money for Karen in 30 days, just imagine what we could do to help the bin Laden shooter and his family. I'm going to send my contribution to the SEAL Team Foundation and include a note of where I'd like to see the money go. There are plenty of other worthwhile veterans charities for those who want to help all returning vets.

The mistake President George W. Bush made after the 9/11 attacks was not giving Americans something real to do in the hunt for bin Laden and his confederates, like paying a dedicated tax toward the effort. But now the man who brought us closure is in trouble. It's not up to someone else to help him. It's up to us. We need to have his back.

William F. B. O'Reilly is a Newsday columnist and a Republican political consultant.