US Navy SEALs celebrate 50th anniversary

SEALs 50th Anniversary

By Ashley Kelly
7:14 p.m. EST, January 27, 2012
VIRGINIA BEACH — Steve Frisk described preparing to jump out of plane 30,000 feet in the air as a tense moment.

But as soon as his feet left the ramp, the tension always left him. "It's kind of incredible in a way to be jumping out of a plane," Frisk said. "As soon as you're out of the plane everything is fine."

Frisk was one of more than 150 retired and active Navy SEALs who attended a 50th anniversary ceremony Friday at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. Navy SEAL Teams 1 and 2 were both commissioned in January 1962. Team 1 was based in Coronado, Calif. Team 2 was based at Little Creek. Each team was made up of 50 enlisted men and 10 officers.

Before the ceremony, retired SEALS swapped stories and caught up with teammates they hadn't seen in years. Some bought black and white photos to share. "You trusted the people you worked with every day because they would take a bullet for you and you knew that," said Frisk, who became a SEAL in 1966.

Retired Capt. Rick Woolard said the attention SEALs receive has changed since the 1960s — from being an unknown entity to starring in a movie, Act of Valor, due out in February. "There was nothing mentioned about SEALs … no front page headlines out there, no lead stories about shooting pirates at sea or on land, or about shooting Osama bin Laden in the face," Woolard said. "SEALs were not the brand that they are now."

Earlier this week the Virginia Beach based SEAL Team 6 rescued two hostages from Somali pirates, according to wire reports. The two hostages, both of Denmark, were abducted three months ago. During the attack, nine of the hostage-takers were killed.

Last May, SEAL Team 6 killed Osama bin Laden during a raid in Pakistan.

Tragedy struck the group in August when 30 Americans, including 22 Navy SEALs, died when their helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan, considered the deadliest attack of the war for U.S. servicemembers. "Fifty years ago the page was blank," Woolard said. "SEALs history was not predestined, it was made."

'Survivor' star's on-stage slur

Rudy Boesch, a retired Navy SEAL and former cast member of the reality TV show "Survivor," was one of two featured speakers at the SEALS' 50th anniversary ceremony. He spent much of his speech reflecting on his 45-year career in the military.

His speech took an unexpected shift in his final remark.

Boesch said when people ask him if he keeps in touch with any members from "Survivor," he responds: "I don't talk to queers — and when I say queer I mean homosexuals."

Lt. Arlo Abrahamson, a public affairs officer for Naval Special Warfare Group 2, said, "Those were his views as a retired Navy SEAL. Those views do not reflect the views of the United States Navy or Naval Special Warfare."

Members of gay-rights organizations, when told of Boesch's comment Friday, expressed dismay.

"How is that pertinent to the purpose of the event?" said James Hermansen-Parker, president of Hampton Roads Pride, a gay rights organization in Norfolk. "How is that pertinent to the celebration of 50 years as Navy SEALs? I find it very closed-minded of him."

"I'm disappointed and I thought he was better than that," said Michael Hamer, a gay activist and Norfolk attorney. "I think with 'don't ask don't tell' ended, it's inappropriate now. He's making a bigoted remark at a military function where the military now — at least formally — says it's a non-issue."

Boesch was speaking at about the same time that The Virginian-Pilot reported that Navy Capt. Owen Honors would retire April 1. Honors was relieved of command of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise for making videos that included anti-gay jokes.

 

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