Former Navy SEAL on Military's Top Secret Unit Coming Out of the Shadows

PHOTO: Lt. Denver in Monrovia Harbor, Liberia, 2003." Photograph courtesy of the author. From "Damn Few: Making the Modern SEAL Warrior" Copyright 2013 Rorke Denver
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It used to be that Navy SEALs didn't just operate in the shadows. They trained in them too. Their whole story stayed shrouded in mystery. Their secret missions stayed secret to the rest of us.

But when they got Osama Bin Laden, snatched back an American cargo ship taken by pirates and rescued two air workers held hostage in Somalia, then suddenly, it seemed that SEALs were headline-makers.

Add to that some SEALs wrote books about SEAL adventures and even acted in a movie about the SEAL experience using live ammunition when they made "Act of Valor." They can't quite be called "the military unit that no one ever talked about" any longer.

Rorke Denver played Lt. Commander Rorke in "Act of Valor," a film that used dozens of SEALs and went on to gross $80 million at the box office. Now, with the help of a writer, Denver is doing some pretty decent storytelling in a new book, "Damn Few: Making the Modern SEAL Warrior."

He agrees that with SEALs like him telling their stories that these guys are out in the open like never before.

"We are, at this moment in our history, when the heat is on, the missions are getting press and coverage," Denver said.

When asked if it was a good thing, he said, "time will tell."

"We are in the public eye and I think that mythology is something that people are hugely, hugely interested in and they have an appetite for it," Denver said. "So for us with the movie and then also with 'Damn Few' I had an opportunity, I feel, to authentically represent and hopefully do it from an honorable point of view and accurately do so."

It's mostly his own story Denver tells in "Damn Few," how he joined the SEALs after college -- they didn't want him at first.

"I put in my first application and they said no, and I am glad it went that way. I think the community really values resiliency and toughness and focus and a 'never quit' attitude. For me, when they said no I thought, that ain't going to cut it."

Denver didn't quit. He reapplied and went on to survive the SEALs brutal Hell Week and training, joined the team and deployed all over the world, including the deadly Al Anbar province in Iraq when the war there was at its hottest. His family waited for him to return stateside.

"The families, I feel, are the ones who pay the price of our choices," Denver said. "But I didn't appreciate how much I was asking my family to bear and experience it with me. They really are every bit a part of our experience and frankly they are the ones who are back home and praying and believing that you are going to come home."

But even his family didn't quite know what Denver did at work every day.

"I never ask questions about what he does," said his wife, Tracy.

Book cover for "Damn Few: Making the Modern SEAL Warrior." Credit: Hyperion

But "Act of Valor" was revealing in that way, and Denver's wife watched the film.

"For me it was incredibly eye-opening to actually see a submarine mission or running around in the jungle, jumping out of a plane, shooting his weapons," she said. "For me, it was like, oh, so this is what you are doing when you are away. I appreciated it actually."

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