Longtime readers of The Morning Call might have recognized the retired Special Forces lieutenant colonel who was the subject of a Page 1 story last week on the killing of Osama bin Laden.
John McGeehan of Bethlehem, who was interviewed about the Navy SEAL raid on the terrorist leader’s hideaway in Pakistan, has been profiled in the newspaper several times, most notably for a 2000 special section that I oversaw.
The four-page broadsheet insert was published on April 30 that year to mark the 25th anniversary of the communist victory in Vietnam – the fall of Saigon. It had eight stories about people whose lives were defined by the Vietnam War, McGeehan among them.
He was 23 when he arrived in Vietnam in 1968 as a Green Beret on what would be the first of three tours of duty. He served at first with Delta Project, small reconnaissance teams that snatched enemy prisoners and spent weeks in hostile territory, assessing strategies and strength.
“I wanted to be a soldier,” McGeehan, then 56, told reporter Debbie Garlicki in 2000. “You have to take care of little boy dreams. If you don’t, you will always wonder, ‘What kind of guy would I have been?’ If you take care of that, it solidifies you in your own mind.
“I did it, along with the greatest bunch of men I have ever been around.”
In last Wednesday’s story, the now 67-year-old McGeehan harked back to his own experience in covert missions. He said the commandos who went after bin Laden had to have been really pumped up.
“The days go by and that adrenaline is still with you … and you’re not going to sleep because you’re still high from the mission,” he told Morning Call reporter Devon Lash.
Coincidentally, both stories closed with the words on a plaque that hangs in McGeehan’s home. It is the Special Forces Creed, and it reads: “My goal is to succeed in any mission – and live to succeed again.”
That is the spirit of the breed.