Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Walking—and Falling—Wounded

By Christine Clark
SEAL, that’s an animal that swims in the ocean? Wrong. Until about six years ago, that definition of SEALs was the only one I knew. My military-oriented son taught me different. Navy SEALs are a group of Special Forces soldiers, very, very Special Forces. Somalia pirates and the recent killing of Osama Bin Laden put the SEALs on the front page of every newspaper in the United States and on every news Web site for weeks.
The glory heaped on the SEALs has not gone unnoticed by those who would steal the honor of being a SEAL. The real SEALs have a group that has revealed more than 35,000 phonies. Steve Waterman, a retired Navy diver, stated, “There were about 500 SEALs…in Vietnam, and I’ve met all 20,000 of them.”
I knew the man I recently saw in a consignment shop near Daytona Beach was not one of the fake SEALs. A working man, he looked as if he had done some hard labor that Saturday. He was in the store to pick up some furniture for his fiancée. He wore a SEAL cap and had SEAL tattoos on both arms. “He’s a SEAL,” my son Paul said. We watched the SEAL out of the corners of our eyes and decided to just leave him alone. It’s only been a few weeks since the Bin Laden raid and we figured he was probably inundated with people talking about it. He did his service, and we felt he was entitled to shop in peace on a Saturday afternoon.
When I left the store, I stopped to chat with his fiancée while the SEAL and his son carried furniture to a waiting truck. I told her we wanted to thank him, but were reluctant. She said he doesn’t mind talking, often does speaking engagements, and that sharing his experiences helps him work through many of them. He served our country for 20 years and has been retired for 10 years. She told a story of him running during a battle, and wondering why his leg felt odd. He looked down and realized he had been shot in the foot. I noticed that he limped a bit as he walked to the store between loads and figured that was why.
We asked her to please give him our sincere thanks for serving our country. She said she would. I could tell she is so proud of him.
As we drove out of the parking lot, I happened to glance back, and saw that he had fallen onto the sidewalk near the truck. His fiancée and her son were next to him. We could tell he was not seriously injured so we went on our way. I caught a glance at his face and, to me, he looked embarrassed, like it wasn’t okay to fall. I don’t regret not stopping because it was obvious our presence would have been invasive.
The look on his face haunts me. I wish he and any others who have served us and served us so well, would never feel what I saw on his face. I believe it is okay for him and for thousand of others like him to fall, because without them, who knows how far our country and our very lives might have fallen?
Monday, May 30 is Memorial Day. It really is not just about beaches and barbecues. Thank a soldier not only that day, but every day.

SEAL stands for Sea, Air, and Land. The first Navy SEAL teams formed in 1942 during World War II in Ft. Pierce, Florida, just south of where I live. To find out more about the SEALs, the Navy has a site you can visit:
If you want to know more about the history of the SEALs, Ft. Pierce, Florida, has the only, and very cool, I might add, Navy SEAL Museum in the United States ( The most fun I’ve had in years has been at the annual Veteran’s Day Muster at the Museum in Ft. Pierce.

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