W. Thomas Smith, Jr

Whoever believes, “All men are created equal,” never stood face-to-face with Michael E. Thornton.

Of course, I’m being facetious: All men are indeed created equal in the eyes of God and the law. But I do stand by what I’ve been saying for years: That is, retired Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient Mike Thornton could walk into any fraternity house in the country and instantly be the biggest, baddest man in the house. No exaggeration, and the guy is 60-years-old.

As I wrote last year, I’ve known Mike for about 15 years (now 16). I met him even before that (though he doesn’t remember the meeting) when I was a young Marine lance corporal in the mid-1980’s and Mike was a war-seasoned Navy SEAL officer wearing – above his myriad decorations – the loftiest American military award for valor, the Medal of Honor.

In the years since, I’ve written about Mike, spoken with him on national security issues, broken bread with him, and more recently discussed with him the forthcoming Medal of Honor Society’s 2010 convention to be held in Charleston, S.C. (the state from which Mike and I both hail).

This week, Mike – who now lives in Texas – was back home in S.C. where we met today in Columbia at a local Starbuck’s to discuss the convention and other things.

Mike walks-in wearing shorts, flip-flops, a garnet (Gamecock colored) golf shirt, a gold Medal of Honor ring, a wristband made of African deer horn, and a pair of Oakley sunglasses.

To say the guy is fit – though he says he’s not – is an understatement. Mike says his knees are bad, and he plans to get down to his fighting weight of 218 lbs. But at 258 lbs. he’s all chest, back, and shoulders; which may be the reason he continues to be able to knock out 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, and 20 pull-ups everyday. He also swims a lot (all SEALs do). And he used to be able to bench-press 400 lbs., though he never regularly trained with weights.

When it comes to energy, he has no equal. With Mike, it’s non-stop. All week, he’s been traveling around the state, not wasting a single hour, wining, dining, lunching, breakfasting, office-meeting, emailing, and phone-chatting with friends, family, reporters, military veterans, and potential convention donors. His schedule is outrageously tight, but he refuses no one.

“Mike’s a piece of work,” mutual friend and attorney Woody Cleveland (syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker’s husband) says. “Don’t we wish we all had that?”

W. Thomas Smith, Jr

W. Thomas Smith Jr. is a former U.S. Marine rifle-squad leader and counterterrorism instructor. He is the author of six books, and he has covered war and conflict in the Balkans, on the West Bank, in Iraq, and Lebanon. Visit him online at http://www.uswriter.com.
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