Jimmy Hooper was the owner/operator of the Zypherhills Parachute
Center, but he was so unassuming and laid back, it took me over a
month to figure it out. He had his eye on me -- you know the feeling
you have when you know someone is watching, but you can't actually
see them do it? -- and asked me a few questions about SEAL team. He
drove a beatup old foreign convertible sports car and invited me to
spend a the night at his parents' house, since they were gone on
a trip of some sort.
It was a 500 mile drive from the Naval Research Center in Panama City
where I was on a classified project with military K9s and I was
getting tired of sleeping in the back of my VW bus after the long
drive at the end of a hard Friday, so I thought, "Why not?"
The house was a palatial estate and the driveway must have been at
least 1/2 mile long. The servant's quarters were the size of a huge
regular house and the front doors were at least twenty feet high.
Jimmy stopped on the way there and bought some cheap brand name kind
of beer and I was feeling pretty good by the time I got there (good
skydives that day and alcohol working its magic in the warm summer
breeze with the top down), but the way he dressed, the car he drove,
the beer he drank ... well, nothing was adding up, but I figured what
the hell ;I always had a plan B & C)!
He was very interested in the teams and what we did ... and he was
sincere. I'm able to read sincerity in people, so I was obliging to
the point where certain information wasn't considered for general
public consumption. We drank beer and talked late into the night.
I made the drive to his drop zone every other weekend for about five
months till our "project" was completed and I found my way back to
Jimmy's name popped up occasionally in a parachute magazine and then
it was as though he disappeared into thin air?!
I like book stores and one day as I was browsing the shelves I came
across the name Jim Hooper on a book called "Beneath the Visiting Moon."
Could this be the same Jimmy Hooper? The sub title was "Images of Combat
in Southern Africa." Something told me this had to be the same Hooper
that I knew without even opening the book. It was! As I read the book
I became aware of all the questions he was asking me ... even though it
had been years before, it seemed like yesterday at that point. He admired
the SEALs for what they were, but he wanted to get a piece of the action
on his own ... in a very dangerous sort of way. He says in the book that
he was a writer covering the brush wars in Africa, but I only smiled when
I read that. I felt like Jimmy could feel me smiling where ever he was.
When I got to page 261 the last piece of the puzzle fit together.
Here is that exact excerpt.
... a conversation between Hooper and one of the "volunteers" ... simply
The Most Ruthless Killing Machine
"Tough, competitive, reasonably bright; not many dummies among them. And,
for the most part -- ego aside -- they're here because they love the action.
In psychological terms, they're what's known as high level stress seekers.
These boys are addicts, adrenaline junkies, pure and simple. They get off
on the high that combat gives them. Not very fashionable these days, but it's
certainly not an unknown personality type. And I suspect that in the end --
when this thing is all over -- a lot of them are going to be terribly
disappointed and bitter."
"Why do you say that?"
"I remember a conversation with an old friend a few years ago. He'd spent
twenty years in the American special forces and a fair amount of time in
Vietnam; three thirteen month tours, and all of it in special ops. In
retrospect, its curious that he should have used the word he did to describe
himself and others in the same line of work. Care to guess what it was?"
He shook his head.
"You're not going to believe this, but it was 'crowbar.' Honest to God. I
remember him saying, 'We're society's crowbar. They hate us, they never want
to acknowledge the dirty jobs they give us to do, but when the job is done
they never throw us away -- they just slip us back in the toolbox until they
need us the next time. And there will always be a next time.' I suppose he
was a little bitter. He'd seen a lot of shit, probably killed a lot of people,
seen friends die. And when he finally came home to the society that he
thought he'd been doing it all for, you know what? -- he was an embarrassment
to it. It didn't want to know him anymore. It certainly didn't want to
acknowledge what he had done at its request. I sometimes wonder if all these
guys here aren't going to have the same thing happen to them when this is
"Still it's a two way street: society gives them the opportunity to go off
and do what they want. It says, 'Okay, there's the bad guys and here's the
equipment and here are the rules; do what you have to do within those rules
to stop them.' It gives them a reputation that sets them apart from the rest
of society. And they're so red hot to go off and live at kill-or-be-killed
that they accept the terms. What society never explains is what becomes of
them when it's all over and they have to come back to the real world. Where
they're suddenly expected to live like Joe Shit the Rag Man next door rather
than part of the most ruthless killing machine in the world."
by Ty Zellers