Morpheme: A Hero With Moobs

Remembering Glen Doherty, skier and Navy SEAL killed in Benghazi

Chad, Glen, and Thomas on Hidden Peak in the mid '90s. Photo: Chad Zurinskas

Words: Dawn Cardinale

I learned of Glen’s death through our friend Elf. He called and said that Glen was shot and killed on September 11, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya. We sat without speaking. I can’t call it a comfortable silence, but it is understood. We weren’t searching for the right thing to say, because it doesn’t exist. I don’t know how long we stayed like that, but Elf said, “Dawn, I’m getting hungry.”

Glen and I and all our mutual friends worked and skied at Snowbird. I never talked to him about being a Navy SEAL or, later, a private agent, so I never saw him in that way, as part of the military elite, doing god-knows-what in god-knows-where. I didn’t like to think of things like life-threatening missions or what a Middle Eastern desert could do to someone’s skin. And he never brought it up, so to me he was Glen—a ski buddy and a great, fun guy who always smiled and happened to be really, really strong.

A typical greeting from Glen to me was a “friendly” choking maneuver that brought me to my knees. Once Chad watched and said to him, “I don’t think you know your own strength.” Glen said, “Oh, I’m just playing.” Then to me he said, “Right, Cardinale?” He coiled, ready to pounce again, so I fled.

My friend Dan says that Glen was a guy who “really stood out in the tram line.” He was nice-looking and had a dimpled chin, which can be distinguishing. But if you ask me, I’d say his buddy Doubi—the giant and gregarious ex-football player with a ton of blond curls—is the one you notice.

Glen had these white ski pants that elicited unanimous ridicule. His gluteal muscles were quite built, which didn’t help. Following him out a traverse felt like following the moon. We were way too amused with those things, and while it was all in good humor, Glen returned the next season in a safe black pair. To his chagrin, we reminisced constantly about the white pants. In fact, I think they had a stronger presence in spirit.

When I saw Glen in New York City, I’d been living there a few years and we met at a bar in SoHo. He greeted me by pinching my neck until I fell onto the crowd’s feet. This sort of thing doesn’t faze New Yorkers, by the way. He kept pulling out my hair clip and throwing it down the bar. I called him names and poked his pectoral muscles. I said he had man boobs, to which he replied with a mini strangle.

He asked how I was doing. I said I didn’t know. When I was in Utah, my boyfriend drowned kayaking, and I told him that I thought maybe that’s why I’d left. I was feeling adrift, unsure, lonely. I cried. I could do and say that, because he would reply with something like, “Me, too!” He’d say it as if we’d just found out we went to the same high school. “I also am lonely!” He didn’t make me feel like I had to be cheerful or risked being a buzzkill. He looked me straight in the eyes, like he did everyone, and I told him the truth.

Glen wasn’t afraid of being honest, of saying he was sad, confused, or lonely. He said as much that day he waited in Newark for his flight to Libya. He said he was “kinda sad.”

The man was a self-deprecating jokester who loved a good laugh at his or his friends’ expense, but he also sat down, talked, listened, and considered. It could be boyfriend trouble, financial crises, a tiff with a friend or drunken babbling—if it mattered to you it mattered to him, and he shared right back. This clown-confidant combo is a rarity. Add to that bibulous callipygian, and he was one in a million.

My friend Kerry, also a Snowbird skier, and I had just finished a hike in San Diego when Glen called to invite us to his house for drinks. She said, “What should we bring?” He said, “Depends, how deep do you want to go?” We showed up at his house with another friend, snacks, and wine. He greeted us, then said, ever the generous and accommodating host, “I gotta go.” He also was the ever-attentive boyfriend, and his girlfriend demanded his company. We gave him a hard time, calling him a wuss and Moobs—one with man boobs—and other names we thought might shame him into going “deep” with us (whatever that meant). He wouldn’t budge.

When he left we went deeper than we’d planned, drinking all his wine. His best friend since childhood and roommate, Sean, had come home and joined our cause. Now he was a proper host. We showed our gratitude by calling him Houseboy.

In my going-deep state, I explored Glen’s living space and noted the care he took with the decor and throw pillow placement. His closet was immaculate. Kerry abetted as I switched a couple shelves. “Let’s juss see if he noticez,” I said. There were a lot of books, too. I want to say that the one on his nightstand was something cerebral by Camus, a doorstop/footrest by McCullough or chick lit, but I think it was I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!: Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley by Al Franken. The closet switcheroo? He noticed instantly.

That morning, he wasn’t angry that we wiped out his wine rack or rearranged his closet. No, he invited us to hot yoga. Instead we lounged in his backyard and drank almond-butter smoothies made by Houseboy.

He asked us for our opinion. He wanted to see what we thought of the goods he was selling online, then carted out these ladies’ handbags. We laughed and said, “Cool.”

When I returned home from San Diego I drew a cartoon of Glen as a burly dude sensitive about his moobs. I posted it online. I was half-scared but mostly pleased when he responded, “I’m going to kick your ass.” So I made another cartoon of him surrounded by his beloved handbags.

At the reception following Glen’s funeral, I shared the cartoons with his fellow former SEALs. The one they call “The Dude,” because he can quote the entire movie The Big Lebowski, said, “We really could’ve used this information earlier! You don’t understand. We look for a person’s vulnerability and exploit it.” Like Glen they all had bright white teeth. I wondered if that was why they all were so smiley. In Glen-style I said, “Me, too!”

A bond exists between passionate ragtag skiers. When I met Glen’s mother at his wake in Boston, she grabbed my hand and said, “You’re from Utah.” A statement, not a question. I nodded. With a broad, warm smile she said, “So you skied with Glen and you drank with Glen.” She understood.

He made us feel loved, valued, good about traits we might have feared freakish. He loved us, he loved life, and he loved people. Maybe that’s what chases off fear and prompts commitment, so you can do that job and risk your life for a massive, faceless population.

There was so much that I wanted to do with Glen—surf, bike, ski another season—and talk to him about. I thought there would be plenty of time. I’ll bet everyone says this when they lose a loved one, but our times together were always brief or at least cut shorter than I’d want. I would think it only meant more for next time. I thought that one day, after the time piled up, I might know everything about Glen.

Annie and Tim invited me, Glen, Chad, and Wendy to Baja for Thanksgiving, which was changed to December because Glen would be in Libya until then. I couldn’t wait. To be on the beach with the most fun people I’ve ever known, surfing, sipping cocktails while cooking and gabbing late into the night was a dream. The moobs would’ve shone in the sun in all their glory.

What do I say to the media and politicians, to people grateful that Glen and his partner Ty saved nearly 30 lives that day and died for this country, to all who claim he’s their hero? He’s mine, too.

Editor’s Note: This season, Snowbird added Glen’s Run, named after Doherty, to the trail map. Dawn said it took a while for people to notice—locals don’t look at trail maps—but it’s on there.

Posted In: First Chair, Stories

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  • Blanch

    I miss him too Dawn.RIP Dort

    • tapmonkey

      luv u, blanch!

  • ColeDLehman

    This takes a lot of guts to share. Thanks Dawn.

  • Eric

    Good article. Sounds like Glen was a decent fellow.

  • tapmonkey

    i actually am not sure what book was on his nightstand (although fairly certain it was *not* stuart smalley–just giving moobs a hard time), but definitely the author was al franken.

  • Pingback: American Hero was Snowbird Local

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