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Founding Commander of Elite SEAL Team Six Dies at 81



Richard Marcinko, 81, died at his Virginia home after suffering a heart attack. (Shutterstock)
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Richard Marcinko, a Vietnam veteran who was recognized as the first leader of the covert unit SEAL Team Six, has died at the age of 81, according to his son and the National Navy SEAL Museum.

“Last night, Christmas evening, we lost a hero, who’s also known as The Rogue Warrior, the retired Navy SEAL commander AND the creator of SEAL Team Six, my father, Richard Marcinko,” said Matt Marcinko on Twitter. “His legacy will live forever. The man has died a true legend.”

Marcinko died at his home in Fauquier County, Virginia, according to The New York Times.

Marcinko’s wife, Nancy, said in a statement that he “quietly passed away at home due to a heart attack.”

“To the outside world, he was the Rogue Warrior and Demo Dick but to us he was and always will be a husband, father, and loving Opa,” she said “For over thirty years he proudly devoted his life to serving his country as a Navy Seal. After he retired, he continued to mentor and encourage young Seals while inspiring and entertaining many with his books and personality.”

‘A Legacy Like No Other’

The National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida, eulogized Marcinko in a Facebook post, saying he “played a very unique part in SEAL history, leaving a legacy like no other.” He led  SEAL Team 6 from August 1980 to July 1983.

In addition to his military career, Marcinko wrote several books including an autobiography titled “Rogue Warrior.”

Enlisted in the Navy in 1958

Marcinko enlisted in the Navy in 1958 and worked his way up to the rank of commander. He also created Red Cell, another prominent counterterrorism unit within the military, according to

In addition to serving two tours in Vietnam, Marcinko served in Cambodia and Iran, according to the museum.

“While serving 2 tours in Vietnam, Marcinko won the Silver Star, four bronze stars with combat V, two Navy Commendation Medals, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star.   Marcinko’s SEAL platoon became such an enemy killing force, that the Viet Cong posted a reward of 50,000 piasters for his death,” said in its biography of Marcinko.


Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email

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