DAVID WARSHOFSKY

DEADLINE

THE BODY OF SCOTT HELVENSTON—A RETIRED NAVY SEAL AND AN ACQUAINTANCE OF THE AUTHOR OF THIS ARTICLE—WAS HUNG FROM A BRIDGE IN FALLUJAH. A WEEK LATER, HIS MEMORY WASN’T NEWSWORTHY ANYWHERE.

DISCUSSED: Scott Helvenston, G.I. Jane, Navy SEAL Drill Instructors, Obstacle Courses, Six-Year-Olds, A Ridiculous Number of Pull-ups, The U.S. Armed Forces Olympics, Beaufort, South Carolina, The Orlando Sentinel, Telemarketing, The Euphrates, Countless Pictures of Dead Bodies, Booby-trapped Women

This is not meant to be construed as an attack against the editors of news publications. This is simply an account of what happened to me after I found out that Scott Helvenston was one of the four Americans who had been killed, dismembered, and hung from a bridge in Iraq.

I met Scott in the spring of 1996 on the set of G.I. Jane. I played the part of a Navy SEAL drill instructor. Scott, a retired Navy SEAL, was one of our technical advisors on the film. I watched Scott run the obstacle course like it was built for six-year-olds. I saw him do some ridiculous number of pull-ups in two minutes. Another Navy SEAL told me that Scott had won a few gold medals in a U.S. Armed Forces Olympic competition. This did not surprise me.

I thought to myself, Why didn’t they just ask this guy to play my part? He is the guy. The real guy. And better looking.

Four months later, when I left Beaufort, South Carolina, I never saw or spoke to Scott Helvenston again.

I first learned about Scott’s death from a reporter at the Orlando Sentinel. I screened his call. He left a phone number with a Florida area code on my answering machine. He didn’t say why he was calling. I was pretty sure it was a prank or a telemarketing thing or one of my friends disguising his voice, but I was curious—if a reporter from the Orlando Sentinel really wanted to talk to me, I wanted to know what about. So I called him back. He asked me if I was the same David Warshofsky who portrayed a Navy SEAL instructor in the movie G.I. Jane. I said that I was and he told me the paper was doing a piece on Scott Helvenston. He then informed me that Scott was one of the four Americans who had been killed in Fallujah, Iraq. I looked down at the floor and there, to the side of my desk, was the front page of the New York Times with a color photograph of two charred and dismembered corpses hanging from the green steel girders of a bridge over the Euphrates river. I felt numb. I knew one of those guys. One of those countless pictures of dead bodies I’d seen on television, in newspapers and magazines, from Vietnam to Iraq and every conflict in between, was someone I knew. I had talked to him. I’d worked with him. I learned from him. I ate and drank with him. Somewhere in a box in my closet are some photographs of Scott and me. He told me where he lived near San Diego. I think I met his wife. I think he met mine.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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David Warshofsky is an actor living in Los Angeles. This is his first published piece of writing.

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