I’m shocked and saddened that my buddy Howard Wasdin suddenly died in a plane crash. We first met in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training Class 143. There we worked our hearts out on the sand and in the surf. After one particularly tough day of training, Howard came by and asked, “Who wants to go with me for a run on the beach?” I thought he was nuts, Haven’t you had enough for the day? What seemed even nuttier to me was the guys who went running with him. Even so, I was still a teenager, and he was older than me, and I looked up to him. We became friends and on Sundays went to church together. I got injured, had to heal, and rolled back to Class 144. I completed Hell Week and most of Land Warfare Phase before I dropped out.
Howard graduated with Class 143 and became a sniper in SEAL Team Six and in 1993 fought in the Battle of Mogadishu (Blackhawk Down). After that hellish fight, he ended up naked on an aircraft runway with bullet holes in both legs, his right leg nearly blown off by an AK-47 bullet. After a medevac to Germany, the doctors said he’d never walk again, but he did. They said he’d never run again, but he did—not too much—he hated running. Howard was awarded the Silver Star, Purple Heart and other medals.
Years later, we reunited and wrote his biography, SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper. It didn’t seem the best of timing to write a book: he was finishing his Doctorate of Chiropractic and opening his chiropractic clinic, and I was finishing my PhD in Education. (Both of us agreed that earning our doctorates was tougher than completing Navy SEAL Hell Week.) I enjoyed hearing his stories, and it was therapeutic for him to talk about the horrors he’d experienced. He bravely dug up things he thought he’d buried long ago.
We hung out and laughed on San Fernandina Beach, Florida, where he and his wife, Debbie, owned a condo. Howard and I jumped up and down in the surf zone and summer sunshine like two little kids. When our book became a New York Times bestseller for 22 weeks, we became little kids again. We wrote two fiction books together, too.
Two days ago, Howard and I exchanged emails, wishing each other a blessed Easter. And today, Thursday, April 6th, 2023, he’s gone. I’ll forever treasure our friendship, tough times and good times together. I hope to see him again on the other side. I pray for the Lord to comfort Debbie, their son Blake, daughters Rachel and Eryn, cousin Greg, other family, friends and patients—and Wayne County, Georgia. Requiescat in pace