On a simmering Friday evening in July 1990, when Dave was about to enter his senior year of high school, a summer blockbuster came out. Navy SEALs, starring Charlie Sheen, did a few million at the box office that first weekend, no more than a modest splash for a summer action film. But it ignited a lot of young men’s souls, including Dave’s. He walked out of that suburban theater with the siren song of life as a SEAL pounding in his blood.

At the same time, the world of numbers and electrons held as powerful an attraction as ever. A National Merit scholar, Dave graduated high school with excellent SAT scores, then enrolled in Penn State to study computer engineering. It looked for a while like the academic brain might hold sway over the thrill-seeker gene. But Dave quickly grew bored with college and couldn’t bring himself to sit through his classes. Soon he wasn’t even showing up for them. He gave it a year before dropping out.

When he called his parents to break the news that he was joining the Navy they were aghast. Maggie Scott, Dave’s mother, burst into tears on the phone and did everything she could to persuade him to change his mind. As her husband, Jack, says, “I heard some words from her mouth I heard only then and during childbirth.” Maggie sums it up this way: “We were not happy.” But they both knew that nothing they could do would budge him.

In 1993, two years after finishing high school, Dave went through BUD/S Class 195. He then spent the next few years in deployments with his SEAL team in various parts of the world.

One Sunday morning during these years, the phone rang in the Scott home in the Philadelphia suburbs. When Maggie picked it up she was surprised and delighted to hear Dave’s voice on the other end. “Dave!” she exclaimed, beckoning to Jack to pick up an extension. “How are you!”

“Better than I was,” said Dave. He was calling from a hospital bed in Quito, Ecuador. “I was in a little accident,” he explained.

As his parents listened horrified, he related the sketchiest details of his “little” accident. It had happened about a week earlier, in the middle of the night, and it involved a car crash somewhere along the Ecuador-Colombia border. That was all they ever knew. The story we heard on the teams was that he and some buddies had gotten into it with some locals and were speeding away from the banditos when their car rolled. One Golf Platoon teammate says he heard Dave was on a motorcycle at the time. Whatever actually happened, Dave had been badly hurt, his colon perforated and his insides pretty much torn out.

Dave was taken to a clinic in the area, but when they saw his sonogram the clinicians on staff knew they were way out of their depth. Dave was medevacked out for emergency surgery in Quito. There he lay wide-open on an operating table for an extended series of procedures, including the removal of a few inches of intestine that were not salvageable. (We could see the evidence whenever Dave took off his shirt: a huge, ugly scar ran some 10 inches vertically from his lower gut up to his rib cage. “Hey, check it out,” he’d say. “You wanna see some cut abs?”)