On a recent skit on Saturday Night Live, comedian Pete Davidson mocked the physical appearance of former Navy SEAL, Lieutenant Commander Dan Crenshaw, saying he looked like a hit man in a porno movie. Dan himself was all class about it. In a self-shot video that appeared on TMZ, he said he was against demands for empty apologies for misstatements, but went on to add that service members themselves don’t see their injuries as fodder for humor.
This morning I was asked to appear on the HLN Network to comment on this incident. I’d like to restate a couple of the things I said in that segment, and make one or two points that time did not allow.
“Public veterans” like Marcus Luttrell, Dakota Meyer, Tim Kennedy, Kris Paronto, Rob O’Neill, myself and a host of others all take shots like this. We all have a hundred critics — some within our own community — who all have something to say about our lives and career choices after leaving service. We all tell ourselves that it just comes with the territory and try to develop pretty thick skins. But mocking Dan Crenshaw, and disabled combat veterans, is a bit different. Here’s why:
One of the unadvertised ‘benefits’ of serving in Special Operations units is that almost everyone comes out with some degree of service-related disability — neck, back, knees, hips, hearing loss. Dan Crenshaw was blinded in 2012 in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province by an exploding IED. He lost his right eye completely, and after several surgeries to restore the vision in his left eye went on to deploy twice more to Bahrain and Korea before retiring. He went back to school, and earned a Master’s Degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Now he’s running for Congress in Texas to replace a Congressman who’s retiring.
Dan Crenshaw could take a high paying job in the defense industry or elsewhere, but he continues to serve America — and that is admirable. If elected in Texas, he’ll have plenty to work to do on the VA healthcare system, jobs, taxes, and how we conclude the longest war in our history; a war being fought in places all over the world.
Given what he’s been through in life, I doubt Dan cares much about a bad joke made by an unhinged kid on SNL looking for a quick laugh. In the military, humor is often gross, sometimes intentionally offensive, but we aren’t on live national television making fun of people. And we for sure don’t joke about crippling wounds suffered honorably while serving this country in battles in far away lands. At all. They are never funny.
There are over three million veterans with service-related disabilities. If you do think those disabilities and wounds are funny, there is something ugly and broken inside you and you should get some professional help with that. This also isn’t a topic that should be hijacked by one group or another, this is about basic human decency in America — something everyone should reflect on these days with the hate and vitriol I see in the media and social media daily. I’ve served with men and women of all races, religions, and sexual orientations, and I’m proud to call them all my brothers and sisters.