|I recently had the opportunity to sit and listen as a retired Navy SEAL reflected on a long career in the Navy. As he spoke of his early days in Basic Underwater Demolition/Swimming (BUD/S), “hell week,” two tours in Vietnam, and other experiences comprising 23 years as a Navy SEAL, even now after twenty-plus years of post-Navy life, I could still hear the pride and fervor in his voice. As the amazing stories came to life through his words, I could hear evidence of certain characteristics that seemed to exist between members of SEAL teams.
These things became imprinted in my mind in bold ink and in all capital letters: COMMITMENT, COURAGE, UNITY, UNDAUNTING SPIRIT, DETERMINATION. No word, however, seemed to stand out as boldly as the word PASSION. As retired Commander Aubrey Davis spoke, I heard it in his voice and I saw it reflected in his eyes. It was clearly evident that so many years later, the same passion that drew him into the Navy SEALs was still just as strong.
Cdr. Davis proudly talked of his time in BUD/S, his experiences in drownproofing, the misery of hell week, and the cold, cold water. He laughed remembering light-hearted moments with teammates, and he recalled challenges, hard challenges during training, that formed within the team an unbreakable unity and commitment. In fact, many of the friendships developed during this time still exist today.
As Davis recounted stories from Vietnam involving gunships, the VietCong, places known as Snoopy’s Nose, dealing with Vietnamese interpreters, and close encounters with phosphorous grenades, my mind reeled. He heralded the Navy Sea Wolves and remembered the flat bottomed boats in the cover of darkness and the quiet of night. He spoke of teammates and friends lost in battle, and humbly wondered why he had survived.
Following Vietnam, he participated in SEAL endeavors in the Philippines, Cuba, Korea, Australia, the Middle East, Alaska, and Central America. He openly shared the demands of the job and the difficulty the extensive travel placed on his family. Being a husband and father coupled with being a Navy SEAL was often a difficult mix, like oil and water. In another family vein, however, he remembered the privilege of sharing the title Navy SEAL with his brother as they served our country together on different teams. He recalled warmly one particular occasion when their paths unexpectedly crossed on an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf. Davis recognized his brother, Jim, from behind and went up to him and said, “Boy, does your mama know where you are?”
His tales of adventures under the sea left me feeling short of breath. I heard him talk of squeezing into a torpedo tube and could not imagine how that must have felt. I listened to stories of encounters with whale sharks and was amazed. Hearing of parachute drops in the middle of the ocean and rendezvous with submarines were unfathomable to me, as were exercises involving night navigation in the open sea. Yet, when Cdr. Davis spoke of these things, his voice portrayed energy, focus, passion, and an eagerness and willingness to do it all again in a heartbeat.
In all of his words, and written clearly on his face, I saw pride and passion. Davis clearly considers it a privilege to have served his country and to be called a retired Navy SEAL. He is proud of the role that he and all SEAL teams have played in the past, and he is passionately supportive of the SEAL teams presently at war. He speaks of those serving now with great honor and deep gratitude. He prays for their safety.
I recently read the Navy SEAL creed and I saw it embodied in this retired Navy SEAL. In his reflections and voice, I heard the truth of the words comprising the creed. Not having met an active duty Navy SEAL, I can only imagine that they must have this same passion fueling their service. It clearly runs deep in Cdr. Davis, and I know that to commit to this creed, it must also run deep in these incredibly faithful warriors. May God bless them, their families, and their service to our country. We are deeply grateful.