A year ago, shortly after returning from Somalia, I taped some interviews with a Discovery Channel producer and gave the OK for an episode about me on the “Hardcore Heroes” series on AHC (formerly the Military Channel). The episode will air Aug. 20 (at 10:00 p.m. ET/9:00 p.m. CT) so I thought I would give it a review for my WorkBoat readers.

The episode is called “Lone Wolves,” which I suppose is accurate enough in my case. Each episode has two subjects: Carlos Hathcock, the Vietnam sniper, is my co-subject. Other episodes in the first season feature World War II heroes George Welch and Kenneth Taylor, test pilots Chuck Yeager and Joe Kittinger, and “battlefield legends” Drew Dix and Viktor Leonov.

The events covered in my segment were vessel “extractions” (baldly stated, illegal escapes from seizure) out of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The producers hired a handsome young actor to play me and the quality of the production is amazing. Parts were shot on an actual freighter that looks like a derelict, but so were the ships I sailed on. The scenes with the drugged guard and the Haitian witch doctor are especially good.

Of course, the “heroes” part, when applied to me, is rank puffery. A person who risks life and limb for his or her country and way of life may be a hero, but one who risks life and limb to make a buck is little more than a zealous advocate. Not that my extraction clients haven’t been wronged — a basic requirement for my company VessEx LLC to act — but I would hardly call our motive in seeking hefty success fees as pure as the driven snow.

It’s hard for me to believe that my first extraction was 25 years ago, but nothing has changed since then. During a series of promo spots for the series that I taped last week, the producer asked me if I’d retired from the extraction business. I said: “What? You got a ship seized somewhere in the world, you call VessEx, and I’ll be out of this studio in five minutes.”


A collection of stories from guest authors.