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Richard Marcinko, first head of SEAL Team Six, dead at 81

Marcinko's son said he died on Christmas evening.

Military figure Richard Marcinko, known as the founding leader for covert operations unit SEAL Team Six, has died, his son and the National Navy SEAL Museum say. The Vietnam veteran was 81 years old. 

"Last night, Christmas evening, we lost a hero, who’s also known as The Rogue Warrior, the retired Navy SEAL commander AND the creator of SEAL Team Six, my father, Richard Marcinko," wrote Matt Marcinko on Twitter. "His legacy will live forever. The man has died a true legend."

In a Monday statement obtained by NBC News, Marcinko's wife Nancy said he "quietly passed away at home due to a heart attack."

"To the outside world, he was the Rogue Warrior and Demo Dick but to us he was and always will be a husband, father, and loving Opa," Nancy Marcinko said. "For over thirty years he proudly devoted his life to serving his country as a Navy Seal. After he retired, he continued to mentor and encourage young Seals while inspiring and entertaining many with his books and personality."

The National Navy SEAL Museum said on Facebook that Marcinko led the team for three years starting in 1980. 

"At the time, the Navy had only two SEAL Teams," the museum wrote. "Marcinko named the unit 'SEAL Team SIX' in order to fool other nations, notably the Soviet Union, into believing that the United States had at least three other SEAL Teams that they did not have knowledge of."

SEAL Team Six later carried out the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, CNN reports.

Marcinko went on to become an author and public speaker after his retirement, writing books including his autobiography "Rogue Warrior." He was a controversial figure; the New York Times reports that he "flouted rules" and was "convicted of military contract fraud" years after he left command. However, the National Navy SEAL Museum said he "is considered the United States’ premier counterterrorism operator."