While it is apparent to some, others may not know that I have always had the desire to be a Navy SEAL (Sea, Air and Land). These men form an elite team that do more than just infiltrate and destroy. These men are what I call, true heroes.
As a child, I desired a few things and when I finally moved passed wanting to be a fireman or policeman. I settled on U.S. Navy and more specifically, I wanted to be a SEAL. Days past and several Army recruiters tore up my phone calling and even threatening my mother if I did not sign up. While most of my family is retired Army, it was not the calling that I wanted. The Navy was for me.
I continued working through high school and nailed the ideal scores on my ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test that somehow warranted a call from my mother’s cousin, a U.S. Navy Recruiter. We sat for hours planning and determining my path all the way until I could retire from service. Even though both he and I were excited, my mother was not, which is the way most mothers tend to be when their babies go off to join the military. Since the recruiter was family, she let him know how she felt in not so many words.
The day came for me to go to MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) and he walked me to the bus and I rode a long way in an erie silence. Visions and thoughts kept swimming through my head which meant that night, deep sleep never came.
A pounding on my door the next morning startled me. Even though I was fully dressed and ready, I was not expecting the loud rapping followed by “GET OUT OF THAT BED!”. After snapping to attention, I yanked the door open, which I think surprised the Army Private as he seemed to nearly jumped out of his skin.
The process was a long one and I had an even longer day due to a medical condition two years earlier known as acute pericarditis. While my general physician and my cardiologist cleared me from this minor inflammation of the lining around my heart, the Navy doctor was a little more skeptical. He examined me with a fine tooth comb then proceeded to read every document from the 3″ thick folder that I had brought from back home.
Finally, I was cleared with the words, “Son, just don’t go dying on me”. I promised I would not and he slapped me on the back with a grin as he escorted me out of the office. I proceeded to take the oath and afterwards bounded towards the bus that was bound for Orlando and basic training.
Two inches from the first step of the bus, I felt a tug across the back of my neck and a Private all but drug me back inside the building only to stand in front of a counter for what seemed like eternity. Had I done something wrong? Was my paperwork not in order? That could not nor should it be the case as I had done everything “by the book”.
The problem was, this Private had a different book, one of regulations. It turned out after all the processing, I was one week shy of a two year regulatory wait for someone who suffered pericarditis. The problem was, I did not suffer from pericarditis but had an acute case of it. After hours of arguing with me, my recruiter on the phone and the naval doctor, it was clear I was not going to basic training.
The rest is as they say history. I endured a long, angry and tearful ride home. I never returned due to job placements. After coming out of a deep depression because my dreams had been stomped on, I moved on with the still lingering thought of “what if?” that sometimes surfaces to this day.
While I still follow the SEALs in books, movies, on social media and even an occasional face to face, I have a deep admiration for each and every one of them. This led me to Fort Pierce, Florida to find the Navy SEaL Museum.
I started the trip excited about the little known museum and was greatly and happily surprised when I got there to see how big it was. I gladly paid my admission fee of $8 and proceeded to take it all in. But here I go rambling. I want to show you the pictures of the place for those that either want a taste of the museum or cannot make it to Fort Pierce. Enjoy!
While the boats, weapons, and other vehicles were fantastic to look at and board, things became solemn during the next part of my visit. Please remember these men and their families as well as what they have done for our country.
The following is where I ended my tour. After running off a man who was loudly and obnoxiously talking on his cell phone, the mood dampened and I was left alone in a place of remembrance and thankfulness.
There are times in my life where I want to share moments and feelings with my family members. This one was not one of those times. While the rest of the tour was fantastic, I still recall the emotions that ran through my brain reading all of the names on the wall. And yes, I read each and every one of the 280 names. The complete list can be found here and includes 1941 to the present.
If you get the chance, it is a valuable use of your time. The pictures above are still a portion of what was there and does not include the newly opened K-9 Warrior Unit section of the museum. I also did not include the Maersk Alabama Lifeboat, the walk through creation of what is now called the U.S. Navy SEALs, and various other craft.
As for children, there is a section where they can play “dress-up” in various uniform pieces and hold rubberized weapons while sitting in a RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) for a great photo opportunity. I grinned as I saw several adults do the same.
I leave you with this thought. You may not be a fan of the SEALs and that is your prerogative, however, take a chance, visit a memorial, any memorial and remember what these brave men and women and uniform have done for us. As I do pass many memorials during my trips to Washington, I often think about and say a thankful prayer out loud for those who serve and served.
I hope you enjoyed this minor tour that took me around two and a half hours which could have easily been an additional four. For additional information or planning your visit, here is the website: https://www.navysealmuseum.org/
Use your instincts to survive