I first met Dick at one of the most unlikely places I would have guessed to meet the first Commander of SEAL Team 6, the hipster elite lobby of the Ace Hotel in Manhattan. SOFREP had flown him in for a special interview and book signing event.
Dick was older, in his late seventies, but he still had the shine in his eyes and a presence that most hard men have. It is the kind of steely-eyed look you would guess an old west gunfighter would have. Dick was a guy who sat at that card table of life and death and dealt the Ace of Spades, face up to more than a few people.
“Brandon, nice to meet you.”, he said to me as he gripped my hand as if a steel vice had locked onto it.
We made small talk, and I made sure he was happy with his room. I’ve been a VIP at the ACE ever since staying there at the recommendation of a friend when I released my memoir, The Red Circle. The rooms are smart, the location excellent, and the prices are less than most the tourist trap chain hotels in Times Square with fake reviews.
I made plans to have dinner with him that night at the Breslin next door.
Marcinko was the first SEAL celebrity. Had he not been jailed for embarrassing a lot of brass (read Rogue Warrior if you haven’t), he’d likely have stayed an unknown and not inspired a generation of SEALs, myself included.
Like most great leaders, Marcinko had a way of getting things out of you.
The irony of his imprisonment, like many tell-all books, is that it made him want to tell his side of the story, and what a crazy story it was.
Over dinner, we talked about what he was up to, business, SOFREP, and what it was like to see the rise of the SEAL celebrity since 9-11-2001.
The thing that really still disappoints me to this day is that the Teams really don’t have a great alumni network. We have an annual reunion, but I haven’t been in one since I was on active duty, and it’s mostly a drunk shit-talking fest with a golf game thrown in the middle. Our community does a terrible job of keeping up with the community on the outside, and most of the informal groups are snake pits of professional jealously that I left a long time ago.
Sadly this had left Dick Marcinko in a strange spot, a legend in the community, sadly forgotten by the same community and generation he inspired.
We spoke about this over a post-dinner whisky and how we would do things differently if we were Admiral for a day.
After 2017 we’d speak now and then to check-in, but we never had a chance to meet in person again.
The next few days, we filmed for almost 12 hours in an attempt to capture some of the best footage we could from the legendary Commander of SEAL Team 6 and Red Cell. The man who essentially founded the unit that would years later track down the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama Bin Laden, and kill him in the dead of night in Pakistan.
“There was no way UBL was coming back alive.” -a DEVGRU source told SOFREP post-mission.
I knew we had captured some incredible footage, and I am grateful to this day that I made the decision to fly him out for the interview series we did, and I would encourage you all to watch.
After filming, we had an early dinner with the entire crew and Dick. Marcinko being the true gent he was, was turned on and engaging as ever, telling war stories from Vietnam and much more. What a special treat it was for all of us. Post dinner, Dick, Eric Davis and I squeezed into an Uber headed for Union Square, where we had a SOFREP members-only book signing and whisky event in the rare book room at Strand books.
Having these member-only events is what really makes SOFREP special, at least for me.
I bought an original first edition copy of Rogue Warrior, which Dick graciously signed. He also was one of the first SEALs to say yes to an endorsement of my book, The Red Circle, but he did grill me over the phone before agreeing to it.
After a few hours, we called it a wrap and decided to head to a local dive bar in the East Village where my friend John Bush, a legendary NYC bartender, was waiting with a semi-private table for us. I think the name was the Black Crescent. The kind of place that rarely closes and smells of damp beer.
One of the highly motivated SOFREP fans had somehow managed to follow us there, which would have been fine but he was pretty boozed up and was monopolizing the conversation a bit.
I remember asking Dick if he was good. “Yeah, Brandon, all good, had my fair share of babysitting drunk Team guys, and this is nothing. Tell ya what, I’m going to finish my beer in a minute, here’s what you tell him. Let Dave (name changed) know that you have an important job for him.”
“What’s that?” I shouted into his ear over the loud bar talk.
“Tell him I’ve had too much to drink, and could he make sure I get back to my hotel, plus it’ll save me cab fare!”
The plan worked like a well-planned assault mission.
When I made the request to Dave, he suddenly perked up like a prairie dog.
“Why yes, it would be an honor for me!” he said.
Dave plopped down his credit card, paid the entire bar tab, then ran outside, hailed a cab like a New Yorker, and then darted back in to gather Dick. This guy who only minutes before could barely string together a sentence and had his internal battery in the red was now fully charged in the green with a new sense of purpose! It was a sight to see.
I looked at Dick, the founder of one of the world’s deadliest and most respected counter-terrorism units, as he slid into the yellow cab. Then he looked over at me and gave a slight smile and a wink. Mission accomplished.
Commander Richard Marcinko, United States Navy SEAL, founder of SEAL Team-Six passed away on Christmas night, December 25th, 2021, his final mission accomplished in this life.
Rest in Peace.