In this recurring special feature, Nonahood News recognizes and honors those everyday heroes who have served or are currently serving our country and making a difference in our community. Those who reside in the Lake Nona and surrounding area are our Nona Heroes.
Born in 1958 in Baltimore, Md., this month’s hero has been on quite the journey. Scott Meehan grew up living in seven states and three foreign countries and attended 13 different schools. He joined the U.S. Army Special Forces in 1980 after a hitch-hiking tour through Colombia, Peru and Ecuador.
“After speaking with recruiters from all branches, I chose the Army because I had just finished the book by Robin Moore, Green Beret, and that is what I signed up to do,” stated Meehan. “So, at age 21, I joined the Armed Forces. … I needed something compelling to make a man out of me.”
Meehan served for a total of more than 22 years, seven years enlisted and 15 years commissioned. He explained how the Army did not give him credit for the ROTC break he took. “I met my wife in the Amazon jungles of Ecuador, and I got married after being in the Army for just over one year. Seven years after joining the Army, I, along with my wife and two children, got out and attended college at Southeastern University and ROTC at Florida Southern, both in Lakeland.”
After three years, Meehan returned to the Army as a commissioned officer in military intelligence. His return was just in time for Desert Storm deployment in 1991. “There, I was part of a psychological warfare team attached to the First Marine Expeditionary Force, where I gathered top-secret intelligence from front-line enemy defectors who reported that the Iraqi soldiers were all ready to surrender,” described Meehan. “Eleven years after returning home from the Gulf War, I was promoted to Major and deployed to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) in 2003. After one year at LSA Anaconda in Balad, I received the Bronze Star for several actions on the battlefield, which included information gathering that led to Saddam Hussein’s capture. I returned for a second tour in 2005 to Baghdad’s Green Zone before retiring in 2005.”
Saddam’s capture was a huge moment for the U.S., so I asked Meehan to elaborate. He spent two months building a trusting relationship with a large Iraqi vendor base as a contingency contracting officer when, on Dec. 3, 2003, one of the vendors approached him with information. “He claimed of having two cousins in Baghdad (they used ‘cousins’ often) that had important information about Saddam’s people,” Meehan described. “…Turns out they were aware of a safe house in Baghdad where Saddam’s people were staying.”
Meehan continued to describe how, 10 days later, Special Forces specialized in hunting down HVTs (high-value targets), and 4th Infantry soldiers swept through a farm area near the banks of the Tigris River. One of the soldiers spotted an old, worn-out rug that was covered in dirt and out of place. A search was ordered.
“Suddenly, uplifted hands appeared, one of them holding a pistol. Kicking the weapon away from the slowly appearing hand, they quickly seized the man beginning to crawl out of the hole and jerked him out. The soldiers stared in disbelief! What they saw was a beleaguered old man with a scraggly gray and white beard. ‘I am Saddam Hussein; I am the president of Iraq! I want to negotiate,’ the man said in English,” Meehan recalled. “Days after Saddam’s capture, I learned from my sources in Balad that it was one of Saddam’s close ties, his truck driver, I believe, [who] was the one who told the American forces where he was hiding. This informant was just captured in a Baghdad safe house. The official word was that the raid conducted by the Americans came after receiving information from ‘local sources’ shared with the Americans in Balad! Basically, the information given to me about the safe house led to the raid that captured the informant who told American Forces where Saddam was hiding.”
Having served all over, the locations where he was based include:
- Fort Leonard Wood, MO/Fort Sam Houston, TX/Fort Benning, GA/Fort McClellan, AL, and Fort Bragg, NC (1980-1984)
- Berlin, Germany (1984-1987)
- Lakeland, FL (ROTC; 1988-1989)
- Fort Huachuca, AZ/Fort Bragg, NC/Saudi Arabia (Desert Storm deployment; 1990-1994)
- Fort Polk, LA (1995-1996)
- Fort Bliss, TX (1996-1998)
- Orlando, FL/Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (1999-2003)
- Balad, Iraq/Baghdad, Iraq (2003-2005)
During Meehan’s time spent serving our country, he made a progression through the ranks. “I started at the bottom as a Private. I made Corporal while in the Special Forces in 1981. In 1983, I was promoted to Sergeant before getting out the first time. I came back in as a Second Lieutenant in 1990. By 1992, I was promoted to First Lieutenant and then a Captain in 1994. Finally, in 2002, I was promoted to Major, which is the rank I retired with in 2005.”
Besides aiding in the capture of Hussein, some of his best memories from serving included airborne school. “During our first full week of training, we learned to exit from a door position by jumping out of a 34-foot tower while being hooked up to a bungee cord. The cord slid down a long wire that extended to the far end of the field, where other soldiers waited to catch those who had just jumped,” Meehan described. “Two weeks after the finish of ground zero, and four years after I first began searching for direction in my life, I was walking out the door of a C-141 jet aircraft…while in flight,” continued Meehan’s recount. “The red light above the door turned green. ‘Go,’ said the jumpmaster. The soldier in front of me began moving, and I found myself following like a robot, inching closer and closer to the open door. My mind was in the fast lane thinking of all the things I had trained to do in the past three weeks, leading up to this very moment. Then, in seconds, before I knew it, the soldier in front of me vanished. It happened so fast. I looked into the eyes of the jumpmaster, less than a second, and handed him my static line, not wanting anything bad to happen. Then, I put my head down, my hands over my reserve and began walking 45 degrees toward the open door of the jet aircraft. ‘Whoosh! I’m a Nolan Ryan fastball!’ was my first thought. I immediately began my count, ‘One thousand, two thousand, three ugh…’ a tremendous jerk yanked me higher into the sky. I yelled like a spectator at a sporting event!”
Meehan was based in Berlin, Germany, while the Berlin Wall was still erect. He spoke about his journeys of crossing from West Berlin to East Berlin and how when the wall fell, “I never thought I would see this day come.”
Meehan has lived in the Lake Nona area since 1998 and is currently the Business Department Lead at City College. He oversees the business program and teaches computer and business classes. Reflecting on his previous experiences, Meehan mentions that he’s ready for a change.
“After traveling and living all around the world, I am exhausted and am ready to stay home for the rest of my days…to play with my four (soon-to-be five) grandchildren.”
If you would like to nominate someone for our next Nona Heroes feature, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the form here: http://nonahood.to/nonaheroes.