It was one of those loose ends that inevitably occur.
In a feature on the top snipers in U.S. military history that was running in another magazine, we were missing a birth year from one of the 10. No one was having any luck tracking down those four digits, so I contacted our government. I sent a couple of emails, made a couple of calls and then crossed my fingers. Pretty tightly.
The first response from the U.S. government wasn’t good. “We are unable to provide that confidential information.” By phone, I reached another source within our government. I explained what I needed, and the source checked that name against the names active in the military.
“I don’t show anything,” the source said, “but I show that name as a civilian. Here’s a contact number for that agency.”
I thanked him and immediately called.
The person who answered the phone said the information is unavailable … and then asked if we had tried social media.
“That is our next step,” I said.
Having read on social media that this retired sniper we’re after values his privacy, I figured we’d hit another dead end. But I tried, anyway.
SOCIAL MEDIA ROUTE
Within just a couple of minutes, I found what appeared to be the Timothy Kellner we were after. I contacted him through his page and waited. Shortly thereafter, I received an email from Tim, who said public affairs contacted him and provided my information. He told me what we needed, and then I seized the opportunity to ask him about his availability for a feature.
“Sure, that would be fine,” he wrote.
I absolutely couldn’t believe how lucky we were on that day in early August. We went from scrambling to fill in a blank to scoring an interview with one of the greatest snipers in history.
For what the military has done and continues to do for us, my respect for them is through the roof. To show that respect, I planned to run American Hero as the headline, which I asked him about.
“I’m not a hero,” he said, matter-offactly.
The heroes, he said, are those who do things like engage in firefights with the Taliban.
Respectful of his wishes, I changed the headline. But, I’ll tell you right now, sir, that you are a hero. And that will never change. To be sure, everyone who puts on the uniform to help keep America safe will always be a hero, but you stand above. Think of it this way, Tim. Great athletes play Major League Baseball. Only the greatest make the Hall of Fame. You, my friend, are in the Hall. I will forever be grateful for your service to America, and it is true honor to work with you.
Train hard. Live strong.