It’s not everyday that a person from a tiny remote village in Alaska gets national attention. But that’s what’s happening to Matt Bissonnette, a former Navy Seal who has penned a book titled “No Easy Day”, about killing Osama Bin Laden.
Writing under the pseudonym Mark Owen, a lot of media says Bissonnette hails from Wrangell. But as KYUK’s Angela Denning-Barnes reports from Bethel, Bissonnette grew up in a small Western Alaska village, where residents remember him fondly.
Bissonnette’s parents moved to Wrangell after he graduated high school in Aniak, a village of 500 residents, that sits along the banks of the Kuskokwim River, accessible only by air, boat, or snow machine.
Bissonnette graduated from Aniak High School in 1994 and is now 36 years old. But Aniak residents proudly remember him at a younger age:
“I remember him being a smart kid, friendly.”
Lamont Albertson still lives in Aniak and knew Bissonnette growing up.
“I was a bit older than he was. And you know, he responded well to older kids and adults. And he was just a forthright guy, looked you in the face when he was talking to you. And in my opinion, he was a pretty good guy.”
“He was 1,000 percent reliable.”
That’s Albertson father, Lamont Albertson Sr. He employed Bissonnette for his fish guiding business when Bissonnette was a teenager. Albertson says he would haul freight or people on the local river systems, which could be tricky.
“They have all sorts of sweepers, and shallow water and gravel bars, and it just took a little to run them successfully, particularly with a load of freight I remember him taking up for me one time, we had the boat loaded right down and he just a man. He was a young man at his age . . . great judgement.”
Albertson Jr. says Bissonnette played basketball at the local high school, but what he really remembers about him was that he was an exceptional paint ball player. He says Bissonnette’s father, who was the local magistrate, would get kids together to play in the woods, and the future navy seal was just really good at it.
“Good tactical maneuverer in the forest. I’m mean he was like pretty much un-catchable. He would hide and stake out an area and he just never lost. He was a pretty good guy in the woods with a gun.”
Albertson says he wasn’t very surprised to hear that he was involved with Bin Laden’s death. He says over the years, the town would hear rumors about Bissonnette being involved with other high profile events like the 2009 rescue of the American ship captain from Somali pirates, which hasn’t been confirmed.
Bissonnette enlisted in the military in 1998 and rose through the ranks until he became Chief Special Warfare Operator in 2007.
Throughout his military career, he received 20 awards and decorations, including the purple heart and a bronze star with valor.