Robert O’Neill, the former Navy SEAL who says he shot and killed Osama Bin Laden told Fox News in an interview broadcast Tuesday evening that he wrote letters to his loved ones before leaving on the 2011 raid on the Al Qaeda leader’s compound.
O’Neill explained he wrote the letters because he thought the “chances of dying” during the raid “were really high.” In the event he didn’t return, he said he wanted his family to know “why it had to happen” and that he was participating in “the most important mission since Washington crossed the Delaware.”
“And it was worth it, you know, I’m sorry that you’re upset, but I died with the people I should have died with,” O’Neill said. “It was sad, you know, there was a few times when tears were hitting the pages.”
O’Neill’s letters also included advice for his young children.
“I talked about their weddings, you know, wishing them happiness, take care of their mum,” said O’Neill. “There were some apologies in there for, you know, sorry I’m not around.”
O’Neill’s interview with Fox News is filmed for a two-part exclusive documentary. The second half is scheduled to air on Wednesday evening.
After the raid was successful and O’Neill returned home with his fellow SEALs, he destroyed the letters.
“The first thing I did when I got home was shred them and I — I don’t know if I’m happy about that, but they’re gone,” he said. “I didn’t want to read them again. I didn’t want anybody reading them.”
O’Neill told Fox News reporter Peter Doocy he destroyed the letters because they were written in case he died and “it didn’t happen.”
“Instead of something horrible happening, something great happened,” said O’Neill.
After writing the letters, O’Neill had one more final message to send. Just before leaving on the highly classified raid, he called his father.
“I was actually in my gear getting ready to launch on something I couldn’t tell him,” O’Neill recounted. “I called him to say goodbye and thanks for everything.”
In the conclusion of the first part of the Fox News broadcast O’Neill also described his feelings as he boarded the helicopter that took him to Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.
“I can only imagine it’s like the feeling in the tunnel for an NFL player before he’s about to run on the field in front of 100,000 people. It was like, it is time to do my job,” said O’Neill.
O’Neill also discussed what was on his mind after the SEALs took off.
“We got in the helicopters. We launched,” O’Neill said. “We were the end. We were the fists. We were the FDNY. We were the NYPD. We were the American people.”
O’Neill has said he decided to go public about his role in the raid after speaking to a group of families of people who were killed in the September 11th attacks at a memorial earlier this year. However, some of his fellow SEALs have reportedly cast doubt on his claims. The Pentagon has also suggested he could face criminal charges for revealing classified information.
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