Howard Wasdin, a former top sniper with Navy SEAL Team 6, is hoping that his story of overcoming intense personal struggles will inspire others who are faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges.
Former SEAL Team Six sniper Howard Wasdin (HowardWasdin.com)
Wasdin recently told TheBlaze about the issues he faced after sustaining injuries during the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu (also known as Black Hawk Down) in Somalia.
The incident took a physical toll on Wasdin, forcing him to leave the military and assimilate back into civilian life.
The former military fighter, who is now an author and a chiropractor, said that he initially hit rock bottom after leaving the service, forcing himself to crawl his way out of a world filled with pain and despair — an experience he recaps in his newly released book "The Last Rescue."
"It's a powerful redemption story that will hit home to anyone who has found him or herself in a dark place," Wasdin said of the book.
The decorated former Navy SEAL said that after being wounded and "on the verge of death," leaving the military was intensely difficult. Struggling to adjust, he ended up divorcing, turning to alcohol and finding himself profoundly confused about his destiny.
"I got a divorce right after getting out of the SEAL Team — a lot of bad things snowballing for me there," he said, noting that he also became a single dad tasked with caring for his son. "After that, I jumped into the bottle and became best friends with Jack for a while, last name Daniels."
Considering that the military was the only thing Wasdin truly knew and the only real job he had ever had, he said he was left distraught and disconnected.
"So, here I am at — 34 years old, full of bullet holes, coming back home and trying to put a life together that I never had. Trying to figure out who I am, what I'm going to do," he said. "In that dark time … I would rather be shot three more times than have to go back through that again."
Wasdin described his mindset following his return to civilian life as being characterized by intense hopelessness.
"I thought, 'All is lost. My best days are behind me. I lost the career I love. I'm going to be a cripple,'" he said.
His struggles clearly weren't unique to him, though, as many returning soldiers face similar scenarios. With that in mind, Wasdin said that society must grapple with finding the best solutions to helping those impacted by war and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Upon his return, he faced both PTSD and survivors' guilt, wondering, "Why were these guys taken and why was I allowed to live?"
Over time, though, Wasdin said that he was able to overcome these struggles through counseling and a return to his Christian roots — ideals he had previously abandoned in his adult life, placing his sole focus on his career.
"I was dragged to church and made to go to church as a child, but once I was able to get older and make my choices I flew away from religion," he said. "My religion, my life, my family, my reason for taking a breath in the morning was to be a SEAL Team Six sniper — anything that encompassed me, drove me."
Looking back, Wasdin said that this wasn't a healthy mindset, as he was putting his military career before everything in his life, including God.
"If you find yourself in [that] place, the light didn't move away from you — you moved away from the light," he told TheBlaze. "For years I blamed other people — my ex-wife, people who were in my life … but when it's all said and done, you just have to look up, put stuff on your shoulders and take responsibility."
When he finally did that in his own life, Wasdin said it was as though he "could take a breath and feel my lungs for the first time in years."
It was only then that he said his doubt washed away and he realized that his best days were ahead of him.
Wasdin overcame the mental anguish he experienced as a result of war, met a woman named Debbie, whom he later married and was subsequently set on his path toward becoming a chiropractor.
Today, he says he's a changed man, hoping to inspire others not to give up hope.
"As long as there's life, there's hope," he said. "There was times when I was ready to cash in the chips. I look back and I think that was me being weak and what I should have done was [push harder]."