Veteran Marine officer Sean McCool was looking for a way to reconnect with himself after serving as a combat engineer who twice deployed to Iraq.

He endeavored to do so by being dropped into the wilderness as a participant on Discovery’s “Naked and Afraid.”

“I first started doing outdoor survival with my dad, as young as I can remember — 5, 6 years old,” he said.

McCool’s name will sound familiar to those who remember his father, a beloved astronaut who died, along with the entire crew, in the 2003 Columbia Space Shuttle disaster.

“My dad’s Willie McCool, the pilot on the space shuttle Columbia during its final mission that broke apart during re-entry.”

McCool hopes that making it through “Naked and Afraid” will provide some clarity about his father’s death and its impact on his life.

“I was 22 years old. I just personally didn’t deal with it well or grieve properly,” he said. “I’m out here to do this challenge to really learn about myself and have some time to reflect.”

In his episode, McCool, another man, and a woman are dropped, sans clothing, into Limpokwena, South Africa, with the goal of surviving 21 days in the searing African bush.

“Naked and Afraid” has featured multiple Marine veterans this season. Last month, an episode included Marine scout sniper veteran Justin Governale.

The episode featuring McCool premieres on March 26.

Observation Post is the Military Times one-stop shop for all things off-duty. Stories may reflect author observations.

Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.

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