Andrew Moore, a 13-year-old from Houston, Texas, sold a hatchet replica of an ax belonging to Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator William Ryan Owens, a SEAL Team 6 operator who was killed during a High-Value Target (HVT) operation in Yemen in 2017.
Moore had won the hatchet during a biker rally event that was organized in support of fallen warriors in the summer of 2018. He wasn’t aware, however, that the hatchet had been commissioned by the Owens family to serve as a reminder of their fallen loved one.
In an interview with Click2Houston, a local news outlet, the Moores said that it is a family tradition to collect military memorabilia. They couldn’t trace the hatchet’s origin, however, and consequently decided to sell it. Moore went to a flea market and sold the axe to Donnie Jemison, who is a Navy veteran, for $35.
Jemison saw an inscription engraved on the axe that read “William Ryan Owens, Class 239 (Class 239 refers to Senior Chief Owen’s Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training class), Thank the SEALs.” Between the words, there was a SEAL trident. Jemison, who is a Vietnam veteran, has decided to give the hatchet back to the Owens family.
“This is not something that you would keep if you found it if you knew who it belonged to,” said Jemison. “The guy was a hero. The family deserves it. I don’t know how it got through the cracks, but it needs to go back to his brother.”
On the family’s behalf, John Owens, the brother of the fallen DEVGRU operator, said: “We always appreciate when anyone looks out for veterans and we’ve learned there are a lot of people who still think about us and the guys still fighting.”
Once realizing the value of his former possession, Moore was inconsolable. However, his father, Robert Moore, said: “That gentleman fought for our country. [He] lost his life to allow us to be able to sit at a fundraiser and buy an axe dedicated to him.”
The Special Warfare Development Group, one of the names under which SEAL Team 6 goes by, has had an ambiguous relationship with hatchets. During the height of the Iraq War, hatchets began to become popular in Red Squadron (DEVGRU is comprised of four assault squadrons: Red, Blue, Gold, and Silver). In an attempt to build squadron identity (Red Squadron’s emblem is a Native American warrior, and operators serving in it are known as “Redmen”), Red Squadron SEALs began carrying hatchets on objectives. Reports, however, began to emerge that the hatchets were being used for more practical purposes than just to build esprit de corps.