August 6, 2011, was a black day for the Navy’s SEAL Teams, for the U.S. Special Operations Command writ large, and for the country as a whole.  On that day, a CH-47 Chinook helicopter — bearing the call sign “Extortion 17” — and carrying 17 SEALs, five Naval Special Warfare support personnel, three Air Force Special Operations personnel, five Army aviation crewmen, as well as eight Afghans and a U.S. military working dog, was shot down in Afghanistan, killing all on board.

The loss of life for the Navy’s SEAL community surpassed that of Operation RED WINGS in 2005, also in Afghanistan, as the greatest single loss of life for the community in its history.  For the SEALs, it was a staggering blow, and one that would lead to the creation of a support organization, founded and run by SEALs, and dedicated to supporting SEALs and their families.

Thus, the SEAL Legacy Foundation was born in 2011, out of the ashes of that terrible day.  In just five years, the foundation has provided more than $3 million in direct support to SEALs and their families, and over $1 million in educational scholarships.

On November 11, 2016, the foundation held its 6th annual SEAL Legacy Foundation Benefit and Gala with a sold-out dinner and program in Dallas, Texas, to continue to raise money for the SEAL community.  According to Commander (SEAL) Mark McGinnis, managing director of the foundation, “it was the most successful event in our history.”

Not surprisingly, the foundation’s leadership is heavy on active duty and former SEALs, befitting an organization that prides itself on being run by, and for, Navy SEALs.  The current chairman is retired Master Chief (SEAL) Dr. Shawn Johnson; the vice chairman is the current Command Master Chief (SEAL) of Naval Special Warfare Group TWO, Chris Brownell; and three additional board members are also current or retired Navy SEALs.  [As an aside, this author served with Master Chief Brownell at SEAL Team EIGHT, back when the latter was a platoon chief, and the former was a lowly junior officer. Good times.]

The 2016 benefit and gala was presented by AdvoCare, and held at Union Station, on Veteran’s Day.  The money raised will provide support to the families of wounded and fallen Navy SEALs, as well as educational assistance for SEALs and their families, and other charitable causes benefiting the SEAL community.

That monetary assistance could include financial aid for wounded SEALs, to help with needed medical and rehabilitation care, as well as assistance for other members of the SEAL community in need of financial help.  A recent recipient of foundation assistance, for example, was a SEAL undergoing expensive cancer treatments.

Over 500 guests attended the event, which featured both a live and silent auction, a memorial display honoring each of the 87 SEALs who have fallen since 9/11/2001, speeches from former SEALs, and a special presentation of the Unsung Hero Award and the SEAL Legacy Award.  Rear Admiral SEAL (Retired) Scott P. Moore, a former commander of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (NSWDG), as well as a former counterterrorism specialist on the National Security Council (NSC), was the keynote speaker.