Per reporting in the Hampton Roads, Virginia-based newspaper The Virginian-Pilot—the local paper of record for covering the Navy’s East Coast-based SEAL teams—a new monument is in the works for Virginia Beach, Virginia, which will honor the Navy SEALs.
Per the Pilot’s reporting, retired SEAL Captain Rick Woolard is spearheading the effort to erect a SEAL heritage monument on the Virginia Beach boardwalk. Woolard told the Pilot, “A monument to honor them is overdue, and there is no better place for one than Virginia Beach, where their earliest forerunners came together 75 years ago.”
Woolard is eyeing 38th Street on the Virginia Beach oceanfront for the stand-alone monument. It will likely feature the “Naked Warrior” statue, a bronze sculpture portraying a Navy “frogman” of World War II. Frogmen filled the ranks of the U.S. Navy’s Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs) at that time. They were the precursors to the SEAL teams that would come later.
The Naked Warrior wears the infamous UDT shorts (swim trunks) favored by SEALs and carries a pair of fins. He is perched atop a concrete rendering of an underwater obstacle like those seen in WWII amphibious operations. A wall will also surround the statue, inscribed with stars representing the SEALs and war dogs lost in the line of duty.
The mayor of Virginia Beach, Will Sessoms, would reportedly like the monument to be completed by Memorial Day, 2017. The design has so far been completed pro bono by architecture firm Clark Nexsen. Captain Rick Woolard serves on the board of directors of the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida, which also sports a Naked Warrior statue at its entrance.
Below is by no means an exhaustive list, as far as this author knows, of the other monuments and memorials to fallen SEALs sprinkled across America. The most touching of these are often the most nondescript, smallest, and simplest ones that you might find in a local park, where the fallen SEAL’s family or town has commissioned a local artist to produce a memorial.
The memorials and monuments stand as testaments not only to the fallen SEALs, but to the communities from which they came, as well. It is these communities, after all, that produced these fallen heroes, as much as any training program or elite unit indoctrination.
Some would say that the fortitude, dedication to country, tenacity, and fighting spirit of these fallen SEALs was imbued in them in larger part by their families and communities than by Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training. They would probably be right.
If you ever find yourself near any of these monuments and/or memorials, take a photograph and tag this author on Twitter. The more Americans who see these testaments to bravery and patriotism, the better.
Danny Dietz Memorial in Littleton, Colorado. Navy Cross recipient Dietz was killed in Afghanistan during Operation Red Wings in 2005.
John Douangdara Memorial War Dog Park in South Sioux City, Nebraska. Douangdara is featured with “Bart,” his military war dog, who was killed alongside him in the Extortion 17 helicopter shoot-down in Afghanistan in 2011.
Mike Thornton and Tom Norris statue in Ft. Pierce, Florida. Both Medal of Honor recipients are featured, with Thornton carrying a gravely wounded Norris on his shoulder. Both men are alive today, and the subject of the book “By Honor Bound.”
Navy SEAL memorial in Ft. Pierce, Florida, at the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum.
Navy SEALs monument in Shreveport, Louisiana, dedicated to Jonas Kelsall and Rob Reeves. Both men were killed in the Extortion 17 shoot-down.
Dan Healy Memorial in Exeter, New Hampshire. Healy was killed during Operation Red Wings.
Lt. Michael P. Murphy Memorial Park in Brookhaven, New York. Medal of Honor recipient Murphy was killed during Operation Red Wings.
The Fallen Hero Memorial in Hot Springs, Arkansas, is dedicated to Adam Brown, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010.
Cupertino Veterans Memorial in Cupertino, California, features Matt Axelson and James Suh. Navy Cross recipient Axelson and Suh were both killed during Operation Red Wings.
(Rendering of monument courtesy of Clark Nexsen)