JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The men who designed, produced, and edited content for a video critical of Missouri gubernatorial candidate Eric Greitens’ time as a Navy SEAL have come forward to the Missouri Times. The makers of “Eric Greitens: The Heart and the Myth,” are a group of current and former Navy SEALs who have served with him, commanded him, or are currently serving in the SEALs.
The group of 16 current and former SEALs spoke to the Missouri Times and shared how the video was made, their motivations behind the video, and their feelings on SEALs seeking notoriety from their service.
Greitens was quick to denounce the video, which has been viewed over 20,000 times, inferring to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that it was produced by the John Brunner campaign with whom the Greitens camp has been sparring for several months.
The gubernatorial candidate, who has raised the most money of any of the Republican candidates, responded with a video of his own touting endorsements of former members of the military that cited his ability in the field and as a leader while also refuting select points from the “The Heart and the Myth,” video with citations of his own record.
The original video does not have a disclaimer tag on it, and when asked if it was meant to help another candidate in the race, the group was indignant.
“Was it a political video? F*** no,” one member said, adding that no one in the group cared who became the eventual governor of Missouri. “Guys here are Republicans, Democrats, Independents….apolitical guys who care about this country and the Teams.”
The group went on to detail claiming that the video was made to be shared exclusively by the Navy SEAL community and was made out of what they called a frustration that stemmed from the post-Bin Laden-raid rash of publicity that many former SEALs, including Greitens, have sought. However, someone in the group sought a wider audience and posted the video online.
When the video was posted to YouTube, one member of the group was angry that some in the media did not believe that SEALs could have created the video. But, in fact, the video was created by a former SEAL whose current occupation includes video editing.
“I made the video to show fellow SEALs how wrong Eric and other SEALs who disregard their oath as silent professionals are,” he said. “It went viral amongst Team Guys because we are tired of guys like Eric.”
The group said they also took issue with Greitens having written four books touting his service as a Navy SEAL, but never actually serving on a Navy SEAL platoon. Greitens was deployed four times to various theatres of operation around the globe, but with a Marine Unit – not a SEAL Team – a distinction SEALs do not take lightly.
“It sickens me to hear someone tell people they were a Navy SEAL and a war hero without ever even having served on a platoon,” one SEAL noted. “Eric misleads the American people into believing that he was a Navy SEAL war hero, but he never served as an officer leading SEALs on missions. He earned his SEAL trident, but he never served in the capacity he leads people to think he did. He is the only SEAL officer that I’ve ever heard of who didn’t lead a SEAL platoon.”
However, their sharpest criticism was saved for Greitens’ discussion of being a Navy SEAL to the public, stating that once a former SEAL begins seeking credit or making money off of their stories, they are shunned by the Navy SEAL community for violating the part of their ethos that states “I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions.”
“The biggest problem everybody had was when one guy comes out and starts talking about stories. They’re not ‘my’ stories, they’re ‘our’ stories,” one SEAL said. “You want to talk about them in a group, it’s okay in our group. If I start talking about my stories, I’m now putting myself on a platform and making my money and my fame and my fortune and seeking my publicity off the back of my teammates, which is completely against everything that we all raised our hand for and said we will not do. There’s no individual stories out there.”
Greitens’ former commander said that Greitens did apply to be an assistant commander under him but wasn’t chosen. It was at that point he looked for other opportunities outside of the SEALs, ultimately left to become a White House fellow.
“When you look at the fitness reports he provided, he released reports from when he was a reservist,” one SEAL said. “I didn’t see reports where he was ranked against his peers. That says a lot.”
At the time Greitens was trained to be a SEAL, there were more SEALs than positions on missions to serve on. The group contends that Greitens served two years of training before joining SEAL Team One and served on a Special Boat Unit after that.
“When you commit to be a SEAL you are committing to the taxpayers to serve four years,” one SEAL explained. “It takes approximately two years to get through training, and the vast majority serve at least four more after they finish training out of a sense of obligation to each other. In our culture, it’s not just about getting your Trident then getting out to talk about it, especially when you never served in a platoon. There is very little respect for a guy who serves the bare minimum of two years after getting his Trident and then gets out, especially if he then promotes himself through being a SEAL which is expressly forbidden by our ethos.”
In response to the allegations against him, Greitens referenced that he made enemies in the SEAL community by telling his superiors about multiple SEALs abusing drugs while deployed in Thailand. When asked about that, each member stated they were not involved in that operation.
“No one is saying those SEALs shouldn’t have been prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We just disagree with how the chain of command was subverted,” one of the SEALs said. “In another case, he accused a senior officer of war crimes, someone who is considered one of the best field officers in our community on and off the battlefield.”
While Greitens’ allegations of drug abuse within a SEAL unit were accurate and prosecutions resulted, the war crimes allegations, which were made after the drug scandal in a separate instance and were also considered by some to be an inappropriate bypass of the chain of command, were never proven.
One Navy SEAL, who said he has served for over 20 years and has even had his name on a flyer in Iraq calling for his death, called Greitens’ claims about his military record so disingenuous they bordered on offensive.
“It is a disgrace on our community,” he said. “This guy is just riding on our coattails and on the coattails of our valor. What leadership did you have, what did you learn about leadership in two years? In the time when we needed people the most, at the height of the war, he says ‘No, I’m just going to go a different route.’ It’s a disgrace… What happened to the silent professional?”
While the SEALs were critical of his portrayal of his time in service, they were quick to credit Greitens for his work as the head of the nonprofit group The Mission Continues, which provides mental and social rehabilitative help to veterans.
Due to their desire not to seek fame or notoriety, as well as the fact that their service has put themselves and their families in danger, the SEALS could not have their names or ranks printed, but did offer to meet in person, on the record with Greitens in the Missouri Times’ offices in Jefferson City, if Greitens was willing to meet with them.
“A lot of us don’t want our names in the public because of what we did overseas. There’s a security threat to ourselves and our families,” one said. “There’s active duty guys on this call that can’t speak because their careers would be ruined. There’s guys on this call that are involved in nonprofit organizations that support SEALs. There’s a lot of reasons why we can’t come out to say we represent the community against Eric Greitens.”
When asked for an interview, Greitens only offered the following statement:
What a joke. Only the dishonest press would give dishonest people a second shot at pushing demonstrably dishonest information,” he said. “These politically motivated attacks from this anonymous group are horribly false, incorrect, and flat out cowardly. My military service and record speaks for itself – I’m proud of every day that I served. And the public support of my fellow SEALs and service members says all that needs saying.
But let me be clear on one thing: The military is filled with servants whose dedication to country is awe-inspiring. I have tremendous respect for everyone who wears or has worn the uniform. Since returning home from my last deployment as a Navy SEAL in Iraq, I have dedicated my life to helping fellow veterans, and I will continue to fight every day to see that their values of service, of sacrifice, and of hard work live on. I’ll share that message with anyone, anywhere, anytime.”
The Brunner campaign, who had been fingered for the video, responded to the exoneration of their campaign by the group.
“After his statewide media tour, emails, and social media posts blaming John Brunner’s campaign, we hope this investigative report serves as a lesson to Mr. Greitens that he should be less reactive and more responsible when conducting his campaign,” said Mike Hafner, Communications Director. “Missourians are looking for a governor who will be a thoughtful and deliberate leader – not an emotional reactionary.”