Ribbon cut at new SEAL Heritage Center
‘Living legacy’ to serve as briefing room, family center, museum and monument
The eight sideboys were completely drenched by the time Adm. Eric Olson passed between them en route to the dais at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek – Fort Story Tuesday morning. Olson, smiling, got more than a little wet himself as the deluge of minutes earlier settled into a steady rain.
“Always a pleasure to be back in Little Creek, especially when the weather’s so accommodating,” said the raspy-voiced commander of U.S. Special Operations Command. “If it was only 30 degrees colder, it would be good for training.”
That remark drew laughter from a knowing crowd: active and retired SEALs and Special Warfare operators who’d gathered on a miserable morning for a special occasion: cutting the ribbon on the brand-new, $5.4 million SEAL Heritage Center.
Built from the ground up with private funding raised by the Naval Special Warfare Foundation, the modern, 18,000-square-foot building on the base’s northeast sector – meant to evoke a World War II-era Quonset hut but appearing to some visitors as wave-like – will serve as a combination SEAL briefing room, family center, museum, public recruiting tool and monument for fallen SEALs.
Olson called it a “living legacy to the men and women who have heroically served in Naval Special Warfare since World War II.” It’ll include those Olson called “our current heroes,” citing Lt. Michael Murphy and Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Michael Monsoor, both posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
“And by honoring our history, the center will also honor those who fight tonight, far away from the sea, against fierce and fearless foes,” Olson added. “SEALS masked by camouflage uniform, equipped with body armor and night-vision goggles, and operating from helicopters, vehicles and on foot – SEALs in a close fight, tonight and every night.”
The ribbon-cutting was both a way to thank the foundation’s supporters and donors and to introduce the center to the active-duty military and the spouses. “This is their building,” said Jim Papineau, the member of the NSW Foundation board of directors who spearheaded the fund-raising drive. “We wanted them to come in today to get a feel for what this facility offers and really, to get them to embrace it.”
“They’ve never had a flagpole,” said Papineau, motioning toward the front of the center, referring to the Navy’s widely scattered SEAL, Special Boat and support teams. “That’s kind of theirs.”
Papineau said the center will be open to the public within the next 30 days.