Even though Lipscomb students are accustomed to being around heroes, thanks to the Yellow Ribbon program, encountering the man who killed 9/11 terrorist kingpin Osama bin Laden is something unusual and memorable.
Former Navy SEAL Rob O’Neill, who claims he was the one who fired the fatal bullets at bin Laden during the storming of the terrorist’s compound in Pakistan, came to speak with Tom Ingram for Lipscomb University’s Nelson & Sue Andrews Institute “now that you ask” series Thursday night in Stowe Hall in the Swang Business Center.
The hall was filled of members of the Lipscomb community, as well as the Nashvillians who came to hear from the man who was involved in such missions as the rescues of Marcus Luttrell, Captain Richard Phillips and the killing of terrorist bin Laden.
O’Neill recounted where he was on 9/11, the difficulties of training for the SEALs and his feelings on being the one to kill Osama bin Laden. O’Neill is a part of the elite SEAL Team Six, and has been a part of over 400 missions in his 16-year career with the Navy SEALs. Three of his missions have been turned into blockbusters “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Captain Phillips,” and “Lone Survivor.”
“Captain Phillips was good but not very accurate,” O’Neill said. “Zero Dark Thirty did a good job of portraying the CIA portion of the mission, but Lone Survivor was the most accurate movie.”
O’Neill is a bit of a controversial topic for the Navy, after revealing — despite instructions otherwise — that he was the one to shoot bin Laden. Although the Navy has publicly criticized O’Neill for revealing private information, he said that they have not reached out to him. The roles of individual SEALS, Green Berets, the Night Stalkers and other covert operatives are to remain top-secret, according to the government.
The first time O’Neill ever told his story was when he was touring the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at Ground Zero in New York City. O’Neill said he went in a room where he was surrounded by victims’ families and decided to share with them his tale of the moment they had been praying for since that fateful day in September 2001: the moment he said he fired the fatal bullets as the terrorist stood in his Pakistan bedroom.
“A man in (the museum crowd) told me his grandson kept asking ‘Why did God do this?’ and he told him ‘God did not do this, the devil did this’ and you, sir, have killed the devil,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill is now a private citizen doing many speaking engagements. O’Neill recently started a foundation called Your Grateful Nation that helps people transition out of the military.