Fall of a Former SEAL

According to US military officials, a former US Navy SEAL, Daniel W. Swift, died on Wednesday, January 18th, 2023, due to wounds suffered in combat operations in Ukraine. He was 35 years old. In a message to Rolling Stone, the Navy stated that Swift had been classified as an active deserter and has been carried in that status since March 2019. An active deserter is a servicemember who is absent without leave (AWOL) and has no intention of returning to duty.

Swift (far left) is shown here in Ukraine with Grygorii “Greg” Tsekhmistrenko (center right, holding cat) and Adam Theimann (far right). Photo courtesy of Adam Theimann via YouTube and The CRUX.

Swift’s death was first reported by Time Magazine, which stated that he died as the result of injuries sustained while serving with a Ukrainian unit that came under heavy attack from Russian forces. They did not know how long he had been in Ukraine or his motivation for fighting there. It is possible that Swift joined the International Legion of Defense of Ukraine (ILDU) under an assumed identity to hide his deserter status.

Regarding the former Special Warfare Operator, the Navy released a statement saying simply, “We cannot speculate as to why the former sailor was in Ukraine.” US State Department officials initially confirmed to the press that a US citizen had died fighting in Ukraine, but they would not make public the details of his death. A Department spokesman said, “We are in touch with his family and providing all possible consular assistance. Out of respect for the privacy of the family during this difficult time, we have nothing further to add.” 

According to Time, the native Oregonian had enlisted in the Navy in 2005 and was assigned to a Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Cold Weather Detachment in Alaska in 2007. This was followed by duty with two west coast-based special warfare units between the summer of 2007 and 2014. The Navy did not specify which Teams Swift was assigned to, but we know the odd-numbered Teams are assigned to the west coast, so that narrows it down a bit. His service records show an unexplained break in service from the start of 2014 to the end of 2015. They also show that he was stripped of his Trident.

Although he was an active deserter from the Navy, Swift wrote and self-published an e-book in 2020. It is titled “Fall of a Man.” In it, the former SEAL describes his troubled childhood and how his parent’s divorced, prompting him to run away from home. He married at a young age and had his first child at age 20. He would go on to father three more children. The union ended in divorce.

He Penned A Book

Swift used his book as a device to vent his frustrations with the military and noted that he was there when a colleague of his, Eric Shellenberger, died during a training accident while diving in 2009. In addition, he chronicled deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan. In the former, he stated that SEALs frequently knew where their enemies were but were not allowed to kill them. Apparently, his time in Afghanistan was without incident. He wrote, “Afghanistan was, and still is, my best deployment, and that’s all I’ll say about it. I have nothing bad to say about my time in Afghanistan.”

The former SEAL sits in the back of a pickup in this undated photo. Image courtesy of Adam Theimann via ABC News.

A Ranger’s Tale

Adam Theimann is a former US Army Ranger who had previously served in Ukraine with Swift. In interviews with Rolling Stone Magazine, he tells how he stayed in contact with the ex-SEAL and others in his former platoon through phone calls and text messages. Theimann stated that it was during a late-night mission not long after midnight on January 15th when Russian troops launched a rocket-propelled grenade at Swift and two others with him. All three men were seriously wounded and evacuated to the hospital. An American intelligence official, speaking under the condition of anonymity, stated that Swift had suffered a substantial traumatic brain injury due to the RPG attack. Theimann tells how local medical personnel, despite being stretched thin, did their best to keep his injured colleague alive. However, his injuries were too severe, and he succumbed to them. The other men injured in the attack are healing and, at last report were in stable condition.

According to the Associated Press, Swift is the sixth American to be killed fighting alongside Ukrainian forces.