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.