“They Protected Freedom”

Back on the 7th of this month, as a very busy week was winding down, I suddenly realized I’d completely spaced off the monthly newsletter. Trying to figure out what I’d write about, however, I struggled with the idea of forcing words and thoughts. The output of something forced is never productive. It’s always muffled results. Maybe the speed is there. No precision, though. No honesty. Just words.

Later that night I realized that 4 days later would be the 18th anniversary of the attack on New York City - The United States - back in 2001. “I should write about that” – I thought – “and it needs to be done with reverence and respect.”

This day, each year, will always be sacred for many, as it changed so many people’s lives. People you know. People I know. “What was I doing that day?” – I thought – “Man, I remember it vividly. Crazy that it was 18 years ago.”

Just then, a unique idea popped into my head. I wanted to reach out (last minute, I might add – because these guys are extremely busy, constantly traveling and working) to friends and family of the Special Operations community, to see if they’d be interested in sharing their thoughts about that day, or the years after. Whatever they wanted to say, really.

Three days was extremely short notice, however, plain and simple. One of my friends, who is in an undisclosed location, doing God knows what, talks to me when he can and we catch up.

And so it’s been; last minute requests pending in somebody’s email inbox, a messaging app somewhere, or LinkedIn messages. It’s not exactly like calling your grandpa on a Tuesday evening to say hello. To be honest, I almost decided to bag the idea.

Then a response came through, and not an ordinary one I’d say. Certain aspects of his response, however, did not surprise me at all. I’ll explain later what I mean by that.

Mark “Coch” Cochiolo is a highly respected member of the Spec Ops community who spent over 30 years in the United States Navy with Naval Special Warfare, 8 of which were with The Naval Special Warfare Development Group (commonly known as DEVGRU or SEAL Team 6) as an assaulter and breacher. You can read his bio here and see what he's doing now - unsurprisingly, keeping busy and focused:


Since retiring, Mark "Coch" Cochiolo has dedicated his time and attention to a new mission – training the nation's future warriors.

Here’s what he had to say:


“On 9/11 2001 I had been a SEAL for 16 years, on Gold Squadron for 6, had just made chief and my youngest daughter had just been born in April. We were working with FBI agents who had come down from Washington DC to train in our kill house. We were in the kill house when one of the staff came in and told us right after the second plane hit, and it was obviously not an accident. The FBI agents were on the road home in minutes, the third plane hit the pentagon before they got back to DC. I called my wife to tell her life was going to change. We all sat in the team room watching in disbelief as the towers burned then fell. We prepped our gear, got intel briefs, and updated our wills. I went home at the end of the day, hugged my wife and daughters and got all my home affairs in order. I told them not to worry about me, but I really didn't expect to see the end of this. I won't go into any detail on specific operations, but over the next few years I hunted Bin Laden in Afghanistan, invaded Iraq, helped rescue a POW and hit suspected WMD sites deep behind enemy lines. I got injured on an op in Afghanistan, put off surgery when we got home, so I could go on the Iraq invasion, I never thought of any of this as a sacrifice, any spec ops job is difficult, not anyone can do it, I figured I would do it as long as I could and I did. Now I teach the next generation the skills they will need to go into harm's way. There will always be evil in the world that needs to be met with the precise application of violence, if I can't be the one to apply it, I am happy to train those that will.


The last part of his statement is bolded because that is what doesn’t surprise me much about his response. You’d likely find some similarities between him and his SEAL brothers in this way. They prepped their gear and, with the focus and resilience that exists in a Navy SEAL and the many Operators who make up the United States military, on that day they watched the event, and simply readied up to bring the hammer down on the evildoers of the world.

And that’s exactly what they did. Relentlessly. Imagine the commitment of one who puts off medical treatment, just to continue his mission.

“What’s next? Check.”

It's not a sacrifice – it's just about completing the mission, making it home, and doing everything you can do to ensure your friends do the same. Mission success isn't always hitting the target on time, and bagging up the "Ace" knucklehead in the deck list. And missions don't fail because a casualty was taken.

Their mission is their life. Specifically, the life they lead, job they do, and how committed they are to both. Failure would be not committing, or giving up. On that day, for many, the decision was made a long time ago about what was to be done - "What's the mission? What's the plan? - now execute."

Missions can change, plans certainly do, and mental energy is refocused to complete the next task. Problem > solution > action > commitment. Pretty simple formula if you ever wonder how to effectively problem solve.

"Attacked > precise application of violence needed > apply it to the threat without hesitation > don’t stop until the threat is neutralized"

Our military protected freedom. Guys like Mark would likely tell you they were, and are, just men with a focused skillset doing a job. And they'd be right. Our intent isn't to glorify the Special Operations community over the rest of the military, but merely to gain a unique perspective. And that’s what it is – a unique perspective, with special insight into the mind of somebody always on a mission that involves making the world a better, safer place.

In closing, I’ll add my own personal thoughts. I posted this to our page’s Instagram account earlier today, with a picture of one of my favorite shirts. It can be seen here:


They protected freedom. Remember that. Preserve it in their name, especially our nation’s heroes who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

You and I? We’re here, alive and well, breathing. We’ve sacrificed very little, or nothing at all. The families of service members longing for their forward deployed loved ones, the families of all of the first responders who answered the call that Tuesday morning who only later realized the last words spoken, or the last kiss goodbye, were truly the last. They sacrificed in ways only they can understand. We owe it to them to honor their sacrifice by preserving the things the died for.

When you remember 9/11, remember that.

- AVRD, signing off

2 thoughts on ““They Protected Freedom””

  1. Very good read! I’m grateful for those who have sacrificed everything for our freedom. Today on Tom Sullivan I listened to a recorded phone message that a wife had received from her husband right before the second plane crashed into the twin towers. He told her, that their plane had been hijacked and he said things didnt look good. He told her he loved her and to tell his mom and dad that he loved them. He said don’t worry about me. Live a happy life and I love you. I know I’ll see you again. That was the last time she heard her husband’s voice. That is a day we will all remember for those of us who were old enough to remember. Thanks to all the people who sacrificed their lives that day and all those in the military who have sacrificed then and now. Where would we be?

  2. On May 12, 1962, General Douglas MacArthur addressed the Corps of Cadets at West Point.

    “You are the leaven which binds together the entire fabric of our national system of defense. From your ranks come the great captains who hold the Nation’s destiny in their hands the moment the war tocsin sounds.
    The long gray line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses, thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country.
    This does not mean that you are warmongers. On the contrary, the soldier above all other people prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers: “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”
    The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished – tone and tints. They have gone glimmering through the dreams of things that were. Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday. I listen then, but with thirsty ear, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll.
    In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield. But in the evening of my memory I come back to West Point. Always there echoes and re-echoes: Duty, Honor, Country.
    Today marks my final roll call with you. But I want you to know that when I cross the river, my last conscious thoughts will be of the Corps, and the Corps, and the Corps.
    I bid you farewell.”

    In every generation, when our nation has been tested, there have been men and women who rise up to the task and live that creed: Duty, Honor, Country. I salute those men and women that have gone before and have a faith fixed on the generations that are yet to come. That when the alarm of war sounds, there will still be men and women who will rise up to the task and live the creed: Duty, Honor, Country. From the fields of Lexington and Concord, Gettysburg, beaches of Normandy and Iwo Jima to the Tet Offensive and the Battle of 73 Easting; our men and women have proved their mettle in the heat of battle. Preserving the freedom of this nation against all who dare to conquer and make afraid. To all of them I am most grateful.

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