An Elite Athlete: The
Editorial by Tom Demerly.
On March 23rd I posted
an editorial called "An Elite Athlete" to
our website. It was a tribute to America's soldiers
in general, and Special Operations specifically.
Since the editorial went
up we saw what we thought was an unusual spike in site
traffic. Then our site host contacted us. They told
us our hit traffic had exceeded our contracted transfer
rate by an "enormous margin". We transferred
to our own server due to the increase in traffic. Good
thing we did. Since then our site received approximately
1 million hits. I nearly pooped my pants.
We got e-mails from parents of soldiers, wives of soldiers,
relatives of soldiers, old retired soldiers, Boy Scouts,
Girl Scouts, and general well wishers. The most valuable
e-mails we got were from the men themselves. I got a
call from CBS News in New York. They wanted to know
where I got the information. They were looking for a
story. I told them "Sorry, no story here
We just sell bikes". I got an e-mail from Joe Galloway,
Defense Correspondent for the Knight-Ridder Newspaper
chain in Washington D.C. I got an e-mail and a phone
call from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division
for Intelligence at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. They
were interested in hearing my sources.
I was like "Ahh, you guys taught me this
stuff." A literary agent from New York, Andrew Zack of
the Zack Company, who represents 50 well known authors to several
major publishers contacted me and now I am working with him
on book ideas. More newspapers and radio stations contacted
me. More people grabbed the story and cut and pasted it and
mailed it to their friends. I did interviews and made speeches.
Somehow, either through the miracle of the Internet or a news
report or both our editorial was making the rounds on the web.
And fast. I got 151 e-mails this morning. I have received hundreds
of e-mails in response to "An Elite Athlete". Only
three are critical of the editorial, one a woman who said it
glorified war. I wrote her back saying I thought she missed
the point but thanking her for her response.
"An Elite Athlete" is historical fiction. There is
no specific person as "Mike Smith". The activities
depicted in the story are not based on any specific operation.
I made them up in my head in about 37 minutes. I was watching
CNN the night before and saw a big bomb score a direct hit on
the Republican Palace in Baghdad and then, minutes later, saw
a lone white Mercedes sedan on a CNN remote camera leaving the
area. I thought, "Hmmmm, that's interesting." Then
I came in here the next morning and wrote the story. That's
it. To me the story was so obviously fictional I thought there
would be no chance it could be interpreted as fact. Factual
information as detailed as "An Elite Athlete" would
never be available in the public domain about existing or on-going
operations. I figured everyone would know that. The military
does not formally recognize Delta as a part of their normal
operational organization tables. "An Elite Athlete"
is a fictional look through the smoke and mirrors that is special
As many writers and readers know, truth is always stranger than
fiction. And "An Elite Athlete" is a perfect example:
On April 2, Sunday NBC, MSNBC, CNN, CBS and other major news
networks reported that an American POW, Pfc. Jessica Lynch of
the 507th Maintenance Company, had been rescued by a "Combined
Special Operations Mission" that included, according to
reports, Army Rangers and Navy Special Warfare Operatives (SEALs).
Grainy night vision images of the operation showed withering
fire power being directed during a diversionary raid (according
to U.S. Central Command). Then the video showed soldiers (presumably
Special Operations personnel from their Nomex fire resistant
uniforms and customized M4 carbines) carrying the wounded Pfc.
Lynch from a Special Operations MH-60 Blackhawk (or Pavehawk
depending on the unit) to a larger aircraft for medevac.
As I said, truth is stranger than fiction. Imagine the rescue:
Private Lynch, wounded, certainly frightened but doing her best
as a U.S. soldier to stay alive and keep the faith that she
will survive. The rescue team enters the building from the roof,
the ground- everywhere at once. They are quickly clearing rooms
on the way to their objective. Moving with speed and precision
from years of training. All hell is being unleashed outside.
They enter the room with Private Lynch. A soldier bends over
the wounded Private's bed and says, "I am here to rescue
you". In the hours preceding Private Lynch's rescue it
is safe to assume that she was one of the loneliest people on
the planet, clinging to a fragile hope that seemed to slip by
the hour. But then Special Operations arrived. Under fire she
is extracted to a waiting special operations helicopter. And
"At this point [Lynch] is safe, she has been retrieved,
and some brave souls put their lives on the line," said
U.S. Central Command spokesman Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks following
Brigadier General Vincent Brooks went on to say in a press briefing,
"In an operation like this ... there is a lot of deception."
It is unlikely we will never know the full story surrounding
the rescue of Pfc. Lynch. And the same goes for many, many special
operations being conducted around the clock. They are secret
and shall remain so. Forever. There will be no public historical
record. And that is the way it should be.
At CIA Headquarters in McLean, Virginia when you enter the main
lobby of the old building there is the beautiful, granite 16-foot
CIA emblem inlaid into the floor. It is a holy place, like going
to church. If you look to your right as you enter the lobby
there is a white granite wall. On it are 79 stars. One star
for each of 79 CIA operatives who have lost their lives in service
to our country. Below it is a book with 44 names of persons
who have a star on that wall. Each Memorial Day the story of
one of those names is read in the lobby. There are 35 other
stars on the wall. Their story can never be told. There are
many more stories about people who don't even have a star. And
there is room for more stars. All without recognition.
So I wrote "An Elite Athlete" to recognize, in a very
small way, the contributions of people who never get recognition.
I'm excited that the little story seems to have worked. Over
a million people have read it. In a way it's funny a lot of
people thought the story was true. That flatters me (as a writer).
But I will make you a guarantee: The true stories we will never
hear would make for much more compelling reading. These people
are Elite Athletes. I'm glad so many people enjoyed this little
tale, and thank all of you for your kind words. More importantly,
thanks to the Meat Eaters, Shadow Men, Ghosts, Spooks, Drivers,
Door Kickers, D-Boys, and Operators doing their job at this
hour. Have an Airborne day, and Drive On.
© Tom Demerly, Bikesport
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