Send in the SEAL: Combat Vet Sets Sights on Congress From Central Virginia

April 29, 2024

John McGuire doesn't look like the stereotypical Navy SEAL. At five-foot-eight, a Navy recruiter told him he was too small to serve in the special operations force.

McGuire, a Richmond, Va., native who was abandoned as a child and spent years in the foster care system, volunteered for SEAL training anyway and went on to serve for a decade, executing "counter drug missions" in Central and South America. Now, after starting a physical training business and serving in the state legislature, he's running for Congress in Virginia's Fifth Congressional District, occupied by GOP incumbent Bob Good.

McGuire outlined his story in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon.

"Someone gave me a magazine called Gung-Ho, and it talked about the toughest men alive, Navy SEALs," McGuire said of his high school days. "And it said you had a better chance to become the president of the United States than become a Navy SEAL."

"So right out of high school, I went to the recruitment center, took the test, signed a six-year contract to be a SEAL, and served 10 years."

McGuire returned from deployments "in Europe, Asia, all over South and Central America" and founded SEAL Team Physical Training, a "boot camp-style workout" based on his military experience.

Five years later, in 2006, McGuire broke his neck in a trampoline accident. Doctors gave him a low chance of survival and told his family that if he did live, he would not be able to walk again. McGuire walked on his own power within a year and continued to train his clients.

"I told my doctor, I've got 80 years to work on it, and if all I get to do is move my pinky, that's better than nothing, right?" McGuire told the Free Beacon. "It took me about a year to walk somewhat normal. But I'm still in the fight."

As his business grew, around 2011, he gained the attention of college basketball coach Shaka Smart, who had just brought the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams to the Final Four of the men's NCAA Tournament. McGuire began training the team before traveling with Smart to games and delivering pregame speeches. He told the Free Beacon he's been a "small part" of 18 Division I college championships through his training and motivational speaking.

In 2017, McGuire ran for Virginia's House of Delegates, beating five other Republicans in a crowded primary race before winning the general election by 19 points.

After two unsuccessful congressional campaigns, McGuire again won a crowded GOP primary, this time for state senate, and ran unopposed in the general election. In January, he received the Virginia Association for Career and Technical Education's "policy of the year" award.

Now, he's setting his sights on Congress.

McGuire has touted his support for Israel, earning him an endorsement from the Republican Jewish Committee. He's also backed by SEAL PAC, a group that supports conservative veterans.

Still, McGuire told the Free Beacon he was hesitant to launch his inaugural campaign—and to talk about his experience in the military—because "SEALs don't do politics." Those close to McGuire, however, talk of his loyalty to those around him while serving as a SEAL.

During one deployment, McGuire was alone on an independent assignment when he "heard gunshots" from cartel members targeting a nearby unit, according to a source with knowledge of the mission. "That's a very dangerous situation to be in," said the source, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about sensitive information.

McGuire "risked himself and went toward the fire to help out his buddies. He engaged the cartel and those in the surrounded unit made it out based on his actions."

For McGuire, those experiences have prepared him to take on yet another title: U.S. congressman.

"I have the lens of someone who has actually been a foster child. I have the lens of someone who has served in the military, in some very dangerous places," he said. "I have the lens of someone who is a business owner, who has hired people and signed both sides of the paycheck.

"There are many legislators that have never owned a business, which is okay, but they don't have that lens. When you have many different lenses, you might see the problem from a different angle, and see a world with solutions."