Being a Marine doesn’t mean the same thing for everybody. Despite being the smallest military branch employed by the United States, a wide variety of occupational specialties, combat theaters, and operational requirements assures us all that our time in boots will be a unique conglomeration of pride and misery, custom tailored to fate and our own decisions. That diversity of experience, however, has its limits, and the relative few of us that wore an Eagle, Globe and Anchor on our collars or covers, often find that we’re only a few degrees of separation from one another, even if we’ve never met.
I’ve never met Jason Delgado, but in a way, I felt like I knew him before I ever picked up his new book, “Bounty Hunter 4/3.” His frequent appearances of SOFREP Radio with Ian Scotto, Brandon Webb, and Jack Murphy have served as a welcome distraction on my longer runs for a while now. Worth noting, of course, these days my runs are long in duration more often than distance – but Delgado’s no-nonsense conversational style and willingness to speak his mind unapologetically, while respectfully allowing for the possibility that he may be ruffling feathers, has a way of pulling me out of my achy-knee’d misery, and sending me back to the loose sand of Sugar Cookie in Twentynine Palms… Back to when I was a younger, fitter, and meaner Marine. Delgado doesn’t speak like a politician or a media personality that’s trying to appeal to the broadest demographic possible. Delgado talks like a Marine: with respect, confidence, and an expletive filled certainty you can find in fighting holes and drill fields wherever the Corps has a footprint.
Delgado’s writing, I came to find, is just as conversational and approachable. In his new book, he relays his experiences in the Marine Corps, in combat, and at home in a way that elicits the same kinds of reactions you share between your veteran buddies over beers, rolling your eyes and sighing about the ignorance of some commanders, laughing at the ridiculousness of reality in life or death situations, and occasionally, clenching your jaw in frustration or sadness, as he shares stories of Marines, brothers, leaders he’s lost along the way.
If you’ve heard Jason Delgado speak, his articulate delivery of sentences laced evenly with curses and insight, you’ll probably find yourself, as I did, hearing his voice in your head as you read. If you’re not already familiar with the Marine Scout Sniper, war hero, and integral element in not only the development of modern sniper methodology, but the standards and procedures for the Corps’ first special operations command, you may still find yourself attributing a familiar voice to his diction, as Delgado tells you his story like he’s speaking to a close friend.
True to the famed scout sniper’s reputation, Delgado doesn’t mince words when it comes to combat or his motivations therein. He didn’t write this book to wash away his sins and redress his role in the deaths of America’s enemies with lofty idealism and a poetic bow – he wrote this book to tell you about the rigors of war, the realities of combat, and at times, our failings as men, Marines, war fighters, and people. He recounts the dark humor that washed over him as he saw his own death approach, the jokes he and his friends cracked as Marines were injured or died, just to be able to retain some semblance of sanity in combat zones that bore a greater resemblance, by his own description, to post-apocalyptic wastelands than to the streets of New York City where he was first introduced to the concepts of fighting for survival.
The Bronx is where, as he puts it, Delgado first saw “the blood of his blood” spilled. At just five years old, Delgado witnessed the grisly murder of his uncle, and in the decades to follow, he’d relive the sickening tragedy of watching those he cared about die. While some are worn down by grief, however, Delgado finds a strength in his pain, and uses it to push him further into training to become the most deadly sniper he can be, and eventually to help him mold others in that same manner.
While his accounts of firefights, occasional command ineptitude, and the social politics of service will be refreshingly familiar to those who spent time in uniform, his experiences as a man outside the uniform echo other universal truths about the challenges of our era. The more he focused on his career, the less he did on his relationships. Delgado recounts those failed relationships with the mothers of his children with a solemn respect, acknowledging the role he played in the circumstances he finds himself in, and striving to improve. This is not the tail of a man who never fails, rather, it’s the story of a man who never let failure stop him. Jason Delgado approaches life, business, and even fatherhood with the laser-like focus of a sniper, because, as he’ll tell you himself, a sniper is what he truly is.
As I read, I came to learn that Delgado’s service and mine overlapped for a few years, though we never ran into one another, and when he joined the reserves, he actually drilled out of a unit in the same regiment I served in as an active duty inspector/instructor. It’s a small world, and a smaller Corps. We may not have crossed paths, but it seems likely then that while Jason Delgado was solidifying his status in the sniper community, and shaping the training snipers would undergo for decades to come, we probably had beers with some of the same people. To be honest though, it doesn’t really matter if we had the same drinking buddies or served in the same units, because his story isn’t just about being a Marine, it’s about being a man who struggles to find a balance between his calling and the auxiliary requirements of life.
Delgado is a member of the modern warrior class, the type of person that embraces the familiarity of chaos over the calm uncertainty of comfort. The warrior life, as this book shows, can be a lonesome one, and Delgado relays the struggle of maintaining his grip on what matters in a way that’s relatable to anyone, whether you sell used cars for a living or deposit rounds in the face of evil doers from a thousand yards away. If you’re hoping to gain a better understanding of modern warfare from the ground level, a better grasp of what it takes to become an elite sniper, or just a better appreciation for what one can accomplish through grit and determination, “Bounty Hunter 4/3” is a worthy addition to your home library.
You can buy “Bounty Hunter 4/3” in bookstores now, or on Amazon here.