BUD/S TO BATTLEFIELD AND BACK AGAIN: EXPLORING THE ASCENT OF THE U.S. NAVY SEAL TO THE REALM OF AMERICAN SUPERHERO
U.S. Navy SEALs have become ubiquitous in the years since SEAL Team Six killed Osama Bin Laden during Operation Neptune Spear in 2011. SEAL narratives and stories can be found in bookstores, movie theaters, newspapers, talk shows, board rooms, and campaign trails. But who are Navy SEALs? Though existing scholarly literature explores the factual elements of SEALs, the archetypal identity of Navy SEALs remains a mystery. By some popular accounts, SEALs are American superheroes or living legends who bridge the gap between myth and reality. This thesis finds and explores the intricacies of the SEAL identity by reading SEAL narratives and stories, particularly American Sniper (the film), American Sniper (the book), Fearless, The Operator, and Lone Survivor. This thesis argues that a Hegelian dialectic between the ordinary and the extraordinary characterizes the Navy SEAL identity which emerges from the intersection of the narratives and stories produced by SEALs, specifically those who waged the War on Terror between 2001 and 2011. Throughout its investigation, this thesis retains the familiar concept of the American superhero to help explicate the complexities of the SEAL identity. Employing a hybrid narrative-analytical style, this thesis moves through various stages of the SEAL journey from basic training at BUD/S, to distant battlefields, and eventually back to civilian life. During BUD/S, SEAL recruits learn the critical lessons which will anchor their careers. At war, SEALs rely on the wolf, sheep, sheepdog paradigm to guide them through the morally complex decisions and actions of combat. Returning home, SEALs must learn to cope with the operator's burden where they come face to face with the consequences of their dangerous profession. Eventually, individual SEAL stories all reach some form of narrative conclusion, be it death, injury, or retirement. However, this thesis moves beyond the individual to explore the archetypal Navy SEAL identity and to situate the U.S. Navy SEAL in American culture. In doing so, this thesis discovers that the archetypal SEAL identity carries lasting implications which potentially reframe contemporary perceptions of superheroes and demand a heightened appreciation for the role U.S. Navy SEALs play in American society.
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Miller, Harry C., Jr.; Ball, Thomas P., Jr.; Albert, David J.; Bohnert, William W.; Henry, Hector, H., II; Meyer, James J.; Morris, Toxey M.; Mowad, Joseph J.; Norstrand, Lucille J.; Redman, John H.; Waldbaum, Robert S.; Cattolica, Eugene V.; Cerny, Joseph C.; McLeod, David G.; Turner, William R., Jr.; Resnick, Martin I.; Kandzari, Stanley J.; Pretl, Michael A.; Shifflet, Drew N. (American Urological Association. Judicial and Ethics Council, 1999-06)