A man took the term “stolen valor” to a new depth when he allegedly swiped a ballistic vest worn by one of the men on Navy SEAL Team 6 in the 2011 raid on al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
Kendall Rust was working as a contractor at the National Navy SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida, on Monday after being hired to fix one of the doors there, according to documents obtained by The Smoking Gun.
Museum employee Hilda H. McSween, who was in charge of watching the room where Rust had been working, told St. Lucie County sheriff’s deputies that she thought the 30-year-old was acting suspiciously.
After Rust packed his tools and began to head out, McSween noticed a ballistic vest was missing and alerted another employee, who stopped Rust before he left the building.
Police arrived, and Rust admitted to stuffing the ballistic vest into his toolbox “because he wanted to take a picture of it,” according to the arrest affidavit.
Unfortunately, having the vest did nothing to bolster the man’s courage as Rust began to cry when police read him his Miranda rights as he was being arrested, the affidavit said.
The suspect was charged with felony grand theft in the second degree because the museum valued the ballistic vest at $50,000.
In 2020, Rust was found guilty of a lesser theft charge, according to St. Lucie County records.
Perhaps it was a crime of opportunity or impulsivity, but this theft would have taken something from SEAL Team 6’s historic May 1, 2011, raid that led to the capture of bin Laden.
Around 40 men in two U.S. helicopters made their way from Afghanistan to the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where bin Laden was hiding out, ABC News reported at the time.
In less than three-quarters of an hour, they had shot and killed the previously elusive al-Qaida leader thought to be the mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks and gathered intelligence information from what evidence they could quickly gather.
Their bravery brought America a measure of closure on the attacks and a sense of justice — and, of course, provided an opportunity for then-President Barack Obama to take a victory lap using a perfectly timed photo taken in the situation room that night.
“Ten years ago today at 4:05pmET,” journalist Pete Souza retweeted on the 10-year anniversary last year.
Ten years ago today at 4:05pmET pic.twitter.com/s4g6TZYi2b
— Pete Souza (@PeteSouza) May 1, 2021
Obama was happy to take the credit for what the brave members of the elite team did, though then-Vice President Joe Biden said he had advised against going forward with the raid (a claim he walked back when it became politically expedient to do so).
It was a great day for America indeed, but Obama couldn’t help but see it as a feather in his cap ahead of the 2012 re-election bid that he ultimately won.
Perhaps like Obama, Rust wanted a piece of that successful mission — where men risked certain death if things went south — to share in the glory bought with the sweat and blood of others.
But whether president or petty thief, sharing in the glory of SEAL Team 6 without any of the real risk is disgraceful.