Larger Than Life

May 20, 2015

This week, since there are seven days until the release of our new book Among Heroes and there are eight heroes we write about in the book, I thought I would release one excerpt per day: one for each hero.

Today’s excerpt is about Dave Scott, who was with Brandon when they were called to stand guard over the USS Cole when it was bombed off the coast of Yemen in October 2000. Dave died in an accident while stationed in Guam in 2002. He is survived by his wife, Kat, his parents, Jack and Maggie — who will be on hand next week in NYC at the Barnes & Noble signing — as well as his legion of friends.

Dave was the embodiment of the expression larger than life. Everything he did, he took to a level beyond what anyone else would think possible. He was more hilarious, more outrageous, more audacious. As his mom, Maggie, put it, “Dave lived more in his twenty-nine and a half years than others could live in a hundred.”

Because he was so quick, he could pick up on anything that anyone was talking about and find a way to reference it to something he knew about or had experience with. That high-speed intelligence, combined with his basic good nature and sense of humor, gave him an amazing gift for conversation and for striking up new friendships.

Kat describes him as a chameleon: He could throw wild parties filled with sophomoric stunts (like the time he convinced a group of starstruck freshmen to prove their mettle by sweating it out in a bathroom with an ignited tear-gas grenade Dave just happened to have hung onto from an earlier SEAL deployment), and the next day walk into any posh D.C. eating or drinking establishment and chat up the worldly professionals you’d find there as if he were one of them. Dave could talk to anybody and make anyone laugh.

In many ways Dave was like a big kid. There was absolutely no situation where he would not let loose with his crazy grin, booming laugh, and insane antics, if he was so moved. His Elliott School roommate DeVere Crooks remembers being in the shower at the end of a long day of study, when suddenly a giant gorilla arm shot in from around the shower curtain and turned off the hot water. DeVere almost had a Janet Leigh–style heart attack. Classic Dave.

“He had the most tender of hearts, a boyish imagination, and a bold vision of where he wanted to be,” says Kat. “I often wonder if I mistakenly caught a bolt of lightning. After so many years, it still saddens me to think of that light as not being there anymore.”

Back in 1999, when Dave was at the Elliott School in D.C., he had a good friend, an ex-Navy corpsman who was now with the Marine Force Reconnaissance, named Greg Skelton. One day Greg challenged Dave to compete in the Marine Corps Marathon, a footrace of more than twenty-six miles. Dave took the challenge and, Dave being Dave, he also immediately upped the ante and insisted they run it “the Navy SEAL way,” in “boots and utes,” in other words, wearing T-shirt and camouflage pants (utility uniform) and combat boots.

Greg called his bluff. “Let’s do it,” he said.

So they did. It wasn’t until eighteen miles into the race that Dave glanced over at Greg as they ran and said, “Hey … I don’t know if … you realize this but … I was just kidding about … the boots and utes.” They huffed another twenty yards or so, then Dave added, “But what the hell we’ve … come this far let’s … finish this fucker.”

And they did—the only runners among the thirty thousand participants who ran the competition, let alone finished it, in heavy boots.

In October 2003, exactly one year after Dave’s death, Greg ran the Marine Corps Marathon again, once again with a Scott by his side—Dave’s dad, Jack, standing in for his absent son. When they reached the finish line Jack didn’t stop running. After another half mile he finally slowed and came to a standstill at Arlington National Cemetery, where he draped his finisher’s medal over Dave’s gravesite.

The following year Greg couldn’t make it, but Dave’s younger brother, Mike, kept the tradition going and ran the race himself. Like his father the year before, Mike continued on to Arlington to leave his Marine Corps Marathon finisher’s medal on his brother’s grave.

The year after that Greg was determined not to miss the event: He drove in uniform nonstop from Georgia to D.C. to run the race one more time—in boots and utes. Leaving the finish line behind he followed in Jack’s and Mike’s footsteps until he had reached Dave’s final resting place, where he added a third medal to his friend’s growing collection.

Photo: Dave Scott at age twelve in his wetsuit: ready for action.


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