Black Hawk Down Hero Fights For Veterans With Addiction

By Maggie Ethridge 11/14/18

The retired hero discusses the turning point that led him to become an advocate for veterans with addiction in a recent interview. 

Retired Black Hawk Down hero Norm Hooten is helping veterans with addiction
Photo via YouTube

Heroes come in many forms, and now a soldier who fought in the battle documented forever in its namesake movie—Black Hawk Down—is finding himself a different kind of hero than he once was. After serving the country as a soldier, he now helps veterans with opioid addiction.

The famous battle began Oct. 3, 1993 when then-U.S Army Master Sergeant Norm Hooten went in as Delta force operator for the assault force in Mogadishu, Somalia. Hooten and his team flew into Somalia to capture command members fighting for a warlord.

"It ended up being a lot more than we thought it was going to be," Hooten recalled in KOMO News.

Horrifically, as the American team left the completed mission, one of the helicopters—a Black Hawk—was brought down in enemy fire. Hooten and his team returned to find and rescue the downed copter, spending 18 hours of battle fighting toward the site, and then bringing home the dead soldiers. In the end, 18 American soldiers were killed. Hooten’s squadron was hit particularly hard with more than half wounded.

"Not only were we rushing to get there, every other hostile militiaman in that city was doing the same thing," Hooten said. "We were going to go in and recover every person that went in if it took us forever to do so."

Twenty years later, one of Hooten’s team members died—not from enemy soldiers, but opioid addiction. "I used to think of it (drug addiction) as a choice," Hooten admits. "But it’s really not a choice. It’s truly a disease."

Hooten was grief-stricken and enraged in a new way. "It was a different feeling losing a dear friend to a drug overdose than one in combat," Hooten said. "Both are tragic but one is a little more acceptable than the other as far as I’m concerned."

Hooten felt a later-in-life call to service, and at age 55 he received his doctorate in pharmacy. He is now a clinical pharmacist at the Orlando Veteran’s Association, working to support and save veterans with addiction.

A staggering statistic that moved Hooten to action: opioid abuse has killed more Americans than the Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam wars combined. Due to PTSD and pain resulting from injuries, veterans are often prescribed opioids, putting them at risk for opioid addiction.

This Memorial Day, vets had a rally pushing for more access to legal cannabis for the treatment of pain through the Department of Veterans Affairs.  “Use cannabis, die less,” Mike Krawitz, a 56-year-old disabled U.S. Air Force veteran, told

If you are a veteran or a service member in crisis, there are resources to help. Please call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1.

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Maggie May Ethridge is the author of Atmospheric Disturbances: Scenes From a Marriage (Shebooks, 2014) and the recently completed novel, Agitate My Heart. She is a freelance writer published in Rolling Stone, VOX, Washington Post, The Guardian and many others. Find her at her blog Flux Capacitor or on LinkedIn or Twitter.