Decorated combat veteran who shot Osama bin Laden speaks in Yakima

Decorated combat veteran Rob O’Neill recounted what it was like to be part of the team that shot and killed Osama bin Laden. He shared his story on the 18th anniversary of 9/11 at a packed town hall event at Capitol Theatre.

“We knew it was a big deal, he’s the most wanted terrorist in the world,” said O’Neill. He said his team didn’t realize it was that big of a deal until they heard President Obama announce the news to the world on television.

“I heard President Obama say Osama bin Laden, I looked at Osama bin Laden, and my first thought was, how in the world did I get here from Butte, Montana.”

O’Neill said it wasn’t just an accomplishment for himself, he was honored to be part of a team.

“We were part of a team that was at the right place at the right time,” said O’Neill. “I had a front row seat to pretty much the most important mission in modern history. I had a brave guy go in front of me, and because he went this way, I went that way, and I shot a famous guy.”

He said that while terrorists of any sort will continue to target innocent people, he thinks for the most part, people are good.

“We never want another 9/11, but we would love another 9/12, because that’s when the county was together,” said O’Neill. “When we killed Osama bin Laden, the nation, the Western world was together again.”

During his talk, he offered plenty of advice from his time as a Navy SEAL.

“Being from Butte, Montana, not knowing how to swim, joining the Navy on accident and ending up in Osama bin Laden’s bedroom as a Navy SEAL, it just proves it doesn’t matter what you look like, or where you’re from, you can do anything you want as long as you keep the right attitude,” said O’Neill. ​​​​​​​

Jessica McDonald, a student at Zillah High School, said she wasn’t alive on Sept. 9, 2001. She said she still took away a lot of important points from O’Neill’s talk.

“One thing that sat in my mind was especially the human one, we’re all human. We’re all one. We’re all together, and 9/12 was when everyone was under the same flag and everyone loved each other,” said McDonald.

O’Neill is the author of the New York Times best-selling memoir The Operator: Firing the Shots That Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior. He has been deployed more than a dozen times and held combat leadership roles in more than 400 combat missions in four different theaters of war.