Richard “Dick” Marcinko, the first commander of the Navy SEAL 6 team, the highly trained group of warriors who killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, died on Christmas Day at the age of 81, according to his family.
Kathy Ritchie, Marcinko’s daughter, confirmed the death of the retired commander and Vietnam War veteran to NBC News on Monday morning.
In a family statement released later Monday, Nancy Marcinko, Marcinko’s wife, said he “died quietly at home from a heart attack.”
“To the outside world he was the Rogue Warrior and the Demo Dick, but to us he was and always will be a loving husband, father and Opa,” said Nancy Marinko. “For over thirty years he has proudly dedicated his life to serving his country as a Navy Seal. After his retirement he continued to mentor and encourage young Seals while inspiring and entertaining many with his books and his personality.”
“Not many people know of his gentle and generous nature. Although he is gone, the mark he left will never be faded. As a family, we recognize that it is not just our loss and you are many cry with us. We sincerely appreciate the warm thoughts and condolences. “
The National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Fla., Recalled Marcinko in a Facebook post, saying he “played a very unique role in SEAL’s history, leaving a legacy not like the others”.
Marcinko enlisted in the Navy in 1958 and eventually rose through the ranks to the rank of commander. In addition to developing SEAL Team 6, he also created Red Cell, another prominent counterterrorism unit within the military, according to NavySeals.com.
Marcinko was a two-time Vietnam War veteran, who also served in Cambodia and Iran, according to the museum.
He was part of a joint chiefs of staff task force known as the Terrorist Action Team (TAT) during the Iran hostage crisis of 1979, where Iranian protesters raided the embassy from the United States to Tehran and took Americans hostage. TAT’s work led to Operation Eagle Claw, the failed 1980 hostage rescue attempt, the museum wrote in its article. The 52 American captives were finally released on January 20, 1981.
“After this tragic operation, the Navy recognized the need for a dedicated full-time counterterrorism team and tasked Marcinko with its design and development,” the museum said.
Marcinko was chosen as the first commander of the new unit. Although the Navy only had two SEAL teams at the time, he named the unit “SEAL Team 6” to “trick other nations, especially the Soviet Union” into believing that the United States had more teams they didn’t know, according to the museum.
He commanded SEAL Team 6 from August 1980 to July 1983.
In addition to his military career, he wrote several books including an autobiography entitled “Rogue Warrior”.