Today we held our first Allen West Foundation Veteran’s Motorcycle ride, which ended at the US National UDT-Navy SEAL Museum in Ft. Pierce Florida.
Unknown to many, the origins of the modern day Navy SEALs began here in South Florida. The idea of the museum originated in the home of Albert Stankie, where he and other former UDT Frogmen gathered personal artifacts and experiences from their service in World War II. They worked to procure the defunct Ft. Pierce Treasure Museum building and site. This evolved into a dedicated facility, which opened in 1985, and was recognized as a National Museum by an act of Congress signed into law on my 47th birthday, February 7, 2008.
The museum collection includes a number of rare artifacts dating from the founding of the SEALs, from the days of Scouts & Raiders, through the Underwater Demolition Teams, to recent present-day activities of US Navy SEALs.
The focal point of the museum is the UDT-SEAL Memorial, the only memorial in the world dedicated exclusively to the United States Navy SEALs and their predecessors. The memorial consists of a 500-pound, 9-foot tall, bronze sculpture of a modern Navy SEAL. The names of all Underwater Demolition Team members—the “Frogmen” of World War II and modern Navy SEALs—who have died in the service of the country are carved into black, granite panels on the walls surrounding the sculpture and its reflecting pool.
Sadly, one of the recent names on the SEAL Memorial Wall is that of Aaron Vaughan, a local warrior from Stuart, Florida. Each November the SEAL Museum hosts the annual “muster” which is a high reunion for the SEAL community and recognition of its legacy. It’s just amazing to see original World War II UDT members. And for those who like celebrities, there is Rudy Boesch, the man who competed in the first “Survivor.” In the museum you’ll find his US Navy dress uniform on display.
Today a new statue was dedicated, that of two Vietnam War Medal of Honor recipients, Tommy Norris and Mike Thornton, a dear friend. Their story is one of heroic lore, for it is the only time in history where one MOH recipient was rescued by another. The Honorable Ross Perot was there for this year’s muster. However, the person who stole the show was the widow of Navy SEAL Ty Woods, Dr. Dorothy Narvaez-Woods. Her speech articulated the code of the warrior, the US Navy SEAL, and she spoke of the hurt and pride she felt equally at the moment of being notified Ty had lost his life in Benghazi. The words she spoke which garnered her a standing ovation were, “I knew that at the moment of decision Ty did not say, ‘at this time what difference does it make?’” Her mother and father sat before me and I gave her young son one of our Allen West Foundation coins. While inside the museum I made a simple promise to Dorothy relating to 2016, and I plan on keeping it.