09.13.12

Glen Doherty Obituary: Navy SEAL Killed in Libya

Massachusetts native Glen Doherty was killed in the attack against the U.S. embassy in Libya this week. Here, family and friends eulogize the former Navy SEAL, outdoor enthusiast, and patriot.

Glen Anthony Doherty
July 10, 1970—Sept. 11, 2012

Glen Anthony Doherty was the second of three children born to Bernard “Ben” Doherty, now of Charlestown, Mass., and Barbara Doherty, now of Woburn, Mass. His older brother is Greg Doherty of Kensington, Calif., his younger sister Kate Quigley of Marblehead, Mass. The siblings were great lifelong friends. They grew up in Winchester, Mass., across the street from a patch of woods where they first fell in love with the outdoors. Ben Doherty, the son of Irish immigrants who kept a chicken farm in Billerica, Mass., is a former boxer and Massachusetts boxing commissioner, as well as a successful stockbroker, who raised the children to be athletic, tough, hard-working, and family-minded. Barbara Doherty, who opened and for years ran a candy store in Lexington called The Candy Castle, is an extremely warm-hearted and friendly woman who raised her children to be kind to everyone, and who opened her home as a second home for all her children’s friends.

Glen was very loyal to his friends and family. He kept the same core group of friends since elementary school, and it was their loyalty to each other and fun-loving nature, as well as Barbara’s welcoming home, that brought them from being a one-time crew of social misfits to the center of an awful lot of damn fun people of all stripes who remain tight to this day. After high school, Glen attended Embry Riddle aeronautical university in Arizona, where he flew planes, rode a motorcycle, and decided that the only thing cooler to do than what he was doing would be to up and leave. His fearlessness took many forms throughout his life, but was always at his core. He became a ski bum at Snowbird, Utah, in the winters, working at restaurants and becoming a phenomenal skier on both regular and telemark skis, as well as a talented cook and afterparty expert.

In the summers, he was a white-water rafting guide down the Colorado River, where his knowledge of the outdoors, his responsibility, and his abilities to tell a great tall tale and get everyone to have fun made multi-day journeys from Moab to Lake Powell experiences of a lifetime for many. He was always a hard worker and extremely responsible, which never managed to drive a wedge between him and the lovable riff-raff who shared his lifestyle. His athleticism also led him to become a triathlete during this period. The many friends he gathered during these years always remained as dear to him as he was to them, and he took every opportunity, usually meaning a few weeks a year, to return to his beloved mountains and friends in Utah.

A desire to push himself and to use his talents to make genuine change in the world led him to join the Navy SEALS in 1995. He passed the training and became a paramedic and sniper, with the Middle East as his area of operations. His team responded to the USS Cole attack, among other missions. In 2001, he got his knees reconstructed and was planning on exiting the military when Sept. 11 happened. He now was not allowed to leave and didn’t want to. He married Sonja Johnson, his girlfriend whom he’d known since high school, and went overseas again. He participated in two tours of the 2003 Gulf War, “Iraqi Freedom.” In the first, his team began by securing the Kuwait oil fields before the invasion officially began to prevent the environmentally disastrous recurrence of them being burned, as had happened under Saddam Hussein’s orders during Desert Storm in 1991. Then they led the earliest Marine contingents battling on the move from the south of Iraq toward Baghdad. He was peeled from his unit for sniper duty for several days, returned to it before the taking of Baghdad, and continued with it to take Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit, where it finally got a breather in Hussein’s riverside palaces once those were cleared. He returned for another tour to the troubled country the following year. About fighting in Iraq, he simply believed that the possibility of liberating the country from a tyrant and making democracy possible for the Iraqi people was worth risking his own life for.

In typical Glen fashion, he made close lifelong friends with a number of his team members. In 2005, he exited the SEALS, but remained focused on the region through private-security contracting work that generally took him to the region in a pattern of about three months overseas and a month or two back home. He worked for peace and security in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere. Each gig was a different situation, some hairy, some boring, most both in alternating fashion. The pattern took a toll on his home life, and he got divorced. When at home, thereafter, he lived the life of Riley, bouncing between the beaches and Cross-fit facilities of San Diego, the mountains of Utah, and his family and friends in Massachusetts and around the country. He was the glue that kept many social scenes together. Once he flew all his closest friends and family members to Mexico for a beach vacation and put them up in cabins for a weekend, because that was what his priorities were about: time together.

He was full of hilarious and adventuresome stories, of which you generally had to shave off about a quarter of the details to get at the pure facts, if those were your concern. He was a master of both shit-talk and encouragement. He wrote a book on sniping, 21st Century Sniper: A Complete Practical Guide, with his friend Brandon Webb. He grew about as settled as he was inclined to allow himself to get with a good woman named Shannon Shepherd. His way of making everyone around him feel special and loved came from the fact that he genuinely looked up to all his friends, always seeing their greatness in a way they sometimes wished they could see themselves, and from the fact that he felt for them the purest and most loyal of love.

—Greg Doherty

Quotes from personal friends and SEAL Teammates

“My friend Glen: he would never pound his chest or tell you how great he was. Glen was a great listener and always had experienced advice. He was the jack-of-all-trades AND master of all. A rare person that was great at everything he did. A warrior spirit balanced by the kindest of hearts.

Glen this is me pounding your chest for you. Glen died protecting the Ambassador 11SEPT2012. I know, wherever you are, the surf is sic, the powder is perfect, and your smile is beaming. You are missed and never forgotten.”

Clinton Emerson, friend and former Navy SEAL

“Glen was without a doubt the most liked man I’ve ever met. He was the conduit through which hundreds of people knew one another and kept in touch and up to date with each other. I can’t remember ever hearing anyone say a bad thing about the man, which I find particularly interesting considering he was one of the most genuine men I’ve known. He was a brother in arms as well as a brother in life.

Don’t cry for Glen, he would not approve. Celebrate a man who lived well and died with a gun is his hands, fighting for those too weak to fight for themselves.”

SH9, friend and former Navy SEAL

“Glen was a superb and respected operator, a true quiet professional. He also knew how to have fun, and loved anything involving recreation. Don’t feel sorry for him, he wouldn’t have it. He died serving with men he respected, protecting the freedoms we enjoy as Americans, and doing something he loved. He was a best friend and one of the finest human beings I’ve ever known.”

Brandon Webb, friend and former Navy SEAL.

Glenn was the self-proclaimed “high priest” of “The Cult of Recreationalism.” Membership required you to attempt at least one recreational pursuit a day. Anything from surfing or golf to cross fit or a run. It inspired me to take up new interests and stay competitive.

Glenn excelled at everything. He is one of those people who could do something for the first time and make it look like he had mastered the skill years earlier.

Glenn Doherty. Irreplaceable friend

B. Curtis, friend and former Navy SEAL

“Glen Doherty was a true American hero in every essence of the word. He embodied the selfless spirit, unwavering determination to succeed, and dedication to our country that sets the standard for what every American should strive to be. The loss of this incredible warrior is one that will forever hurt this nations heart, as Glen was truly a gift to the many people that knew him, and even to the ones who didn’t. There is nothing he wouldn’t do to help those that were close to him, and he never met a stranger. Glen was one of the finest men I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, and the brotherhood mourns the loss of one of its very best. Fair winds and following seas brother, we will see you on the other side.”

Mike Ritland, friend and former Navy SEAL