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Ty Zellers

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 Virginia Beach.
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 titled:
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 over?"
"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