In 1966, nobody put the acronym “SEAL” in print. And about half of the two paragraphs about the erstwhile “counterinsurgent” and “Navy parachutist” were a cover story.

We are getting used to tales of heroism from US Navy SEALs. They have become almost mythic in stature in both fictional and non-fictional accounts of covert ops and wartime derring-do.

But perhaps the bravest thing I ever saw was the last mission of Harry Dale, one of the first Navy SEALs, among the first in Vietnam—and it happened nearly a quarter century after his retirement.

I met Harry in the mid-1990s.  The retired Naval officer had called the Flint Public Library because he was looking for a co-author.  The librarians there said it sounded like it was right up the alley of a local book reviewer who liked that kind of stuff—me.

If you scratch a book reviewer, you will find an aspiring novelist.  So when Harry called, I arranged to meet him at his home.  I arrived about 15 minutes early, having misjudged the time the drive would take.

When I pulled in, I saw this wiry old guy climbing out of the lake.  “Hi, Dave!” he greeted me. “Sorry, I thought I had time for a couple before you got here.”

“A couple?” I echoed, impressed. “You swam across and back a couple times?”

“Hell no, I’m an old man.  I don’t go out that deep.  What if I had a heart attack?”

Then it hit me.  He was doing laps.  Now I was impressed.  Harry brushed it off: “Not much compared to my old frogman days.”

Frogman… the age… “Were you a SEAL in the Vietnam era by any chance?” I asked.

“Very good, I think the ladies sent me the right guy.  Have a seat while I get some clothes on.”