Instead of going shopping and looking for sales, Americans should consider honoring those who have served in the armed forces this Nov. 11, also known as Veterans Day. These individuals have stepped up and fought for their country’s principles. A SEAL and his wife, a New York Times bestselling author who display acts of patriotism.
Retired Navy SEAL Carl Swepston has been involved in a project to honor the “Naked Warrior” with a dedication ceremony, as the statute is unveiled in Coronado this Veterans Day. The statute commemorates the elite men of the Navy’s Underwater Demolition Teams, or UDTs, of World War II, is bronze, 6-feet in height, and mounted on a 2-foot “horned scully,” a type of boat obstacle that was placed on beaches to prevent landings.
The “Naked Warrior,” as named by sculptor John Seward Johnson II, is a Navy combat swimmer wearing shorts, fins and a facemask. Nicknamed “naked warriors” for their lack of clothing and equipment, these frogmen would swim into enemy waters from far offshore to reconnoiter heavily defended beaches without weapons or support. They would return with explosives to destroy any natural or man-made obstacles they found that might impede allied amphibious landings. There is no other monument in Coronado commemorating U.S. Navy SEALs and their unique culture, history and connection to the city.
Having fought during the Vietnam era, Carl is glad that those who served in the early days of the SEALs will be honored.
“I don’t want Americans to feel sorry for me as a Vietnam veteran. I do not have the attitude, ‘poor me,’” he said. “But I do think we as a country need to remember the soldier or Marine that came back to the U.S. in uniform and were called baby killers and spat upon. It was a little different for those of us who were SEALs because we were thought of as cool swimmers and surfers. What I would ask Americans on this day is to try to find a Vietnam veteran and say ‘welcome home.’ As a group they were ‘unwelcomed home.’ I think they would be emotionally charged by that phrase.”
Carl served in Vietnam in 1963 and 1964, part of the Underwater Demolition Team, as a swimmer scout, better known as a Navy Frogman. He then became part of SEAL Team 1 in 1965 and was deployed back to Vietnam in 1966 and 1969. He is glad that the frogman, the predecessor to the SEALs, is being honored in San Diego.
“The ‘Naked Warrior’ refers to the early guys before they became the SEALs,” he said. “In the early days all we had were fins, facemasks, and a Ka-Bar Knife. We were considered ‘naked’ because we did not have any other equipment. I like to say that the Navy SEALs grew up in Vietnam. In a sense we went from crawling to walking to running. Even today the current SEALs call themselves Frogmen. The difference is people like myself, in the early days, were combat swimmers and divers. While the SEALs today do that and more, silent warriors who mainly have covert missions. They are a lot more trained with a higher skill set. But I want to emphasize that the mentality has not changed of pushing oneself to the extreme limits.”
He is also on the board of directors of Final Honor to help those families honor their loved ones who paid the ultimate sacrifice or who have served their country.
“Any veteran buried in a National Memorial Ceremony can get, for free, a horse drawn carriage with an American flag draped coffin inside,” he said. “Recently, someone who was part of the Navy Bomb Disposal unit, working with the SEALs in an advisory role, was killed in Iraq. We honored him this way. The family also gets a commemorative coin that has John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting the casket of his father. This program is funded by donated money.”
Anne Elizabeth, Carl’s wife, writes fictional stories, whose main characters are SEALs. Her goal is to “give insight into the SEAL community, respectful of our courageous souls, and to illustrate how hard and complicated dedication can be as well as how precious those peaceful moments are. There are basic facts that are true to ALL military life: struggles with marriage, family, relationships, money, health, and returning home. My husband told me that I should honor the community and country. I wanted to inform people about the challenges and to show their personal courage. The characters are based on real life former SEALs. I am very careful to craft a plot that does not hijack the veteran’s story so I only use elements of it.”
Anne feels all those who served in combat need to be honored and told thanks with a card or text on Veteran’s Day. She expressed the sentiment of many Americans in her latest book with the quote about these special warriors, “The public would be unaware of the men’s pain and sacrifices. The selfless warrior did not require an accolade; rather, survival and success were the greatest gifts of all.”
Those who have served their country should be honored 365 days a year, not just on Veterans Day. But at the least, on this day, every American should reflect on this holiday, and how everyone in the armed services has put their life on the line, so their fellow citizens can enjoy the basic freedoms handed down by the Founding Fathers.