Retired Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, who led Joint Special Operations Command during the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden, has been awarded $50 million  for charitable use from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his fiancé Lauren Sánchez. 

McRaven, in turn, said the $50 million will go to charities that support the children of veterans and those that work on veteran mental health and brain issues.

The money comes as part of the Bezos Courage and Civility Award, which the tech billionaire funds. Actress Eva Longoria also received the award, according to a press release. Established in 2021, the award is meant to recognize leaders who pursue solutions “with courage and civility.”

“I am incredibly honored to receive this award from Lauren and Jeff,” McRaven said in a statement. “Their generous gift will truly change the lives of countless veterans and their families.  Nothing is more inspiring to those that serve than knowing that their sacrifice is recognized and genuinely appreciated.”

McRaven is the first Bezos winner closely associated with veteran and military initiatives. After leaving the military in 2014, he served as the Chancellor of the University of Texas, his alma mater, Both he and his wife are on the board of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. McRaven has also worked with the Brain Health Project, which focuses on brain research for veterans.

Subscribe to Task & Purpose today. Get the latest military news and culture in your inbox daily.

McRaven told CNN that he plans to use the money to educate children of fallen veterans, especially special operators; help veterans’ mental health and brain performance; and develop future military leaders through education.

Task & Purpose could not reach McRaven for comment on Friday.

McRaven is among the best known senior commanders from the wars of Afghanistan and Iraq.  He took over the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, in 2008, which has purview over the nation’s most elite combat units, including Navy Special Warfare Development Group, DEVGRU – commonly referred to as SEAL Team Six – and the Army’s Delta Force. 

As the JSOC commander, he oversaw the special operators who rescued Richard Phillips, captain of the Maersk Alabama, from Somali pirates in 2009 and was in charge of planning and briefing President Barack Obama on the bin Laden raid two years later.

McRaven served as a SEAL throughout his career, including as a squadron commander  with DEVGRU and the commander of SEAL Team Three.

After Navy SEALs landed in Afghanistan following the bin Laden raid, Obama asked McRaven if he could confirm that the al Qaida leader had been killed, McRaven told CNN in a 2016 interview.

McRaven ordered a SEAL who was two inches shorter than bin Laden to lie down next to the body. He then told Obama that he was 99% sure that the body was bin Laden’s because the remains were a couple of inches taller than the SEAL.

“Bill, let me get this straight,” Obama replied, as recalled by McRaven to CNN. We have $60 million for a helicopter, and you didn’t have $10 for a tape measure?”

Shortly afterward Obama gave McRaven a tape measure mounted on a stand.

McRaven finished his Navy career serving as commander of U.S. Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014.

Past recipients of the Bezos Courage & Civility Award include Van Jones, José Andrés and Dolly Parton.

The latest on Task & Purpose