{Veterans Day} Weekend wanderings to the US Navy SEAL Museum...

Last Saturday, we traveled to the United States Navy SEAL Museum on North Hutchinson Island near Ft. Pierce for their annual Veterans Day weekend muster. The Museum is located on the beach where in 1943, SEALS - known then as Scouts and Raiders - began training combat and underwater demolition teams to be deployed to the beaches of Normandy, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, and where ever their combat and underwater abilities were needed. In 1962, During the Vietnam War, the unit became known as SEALs for their skills at sea, on land and in the air.

Because of recent actions in the war on terrorism and the tragic deaths of 17 SEALs this past August, this year's Veterans Day muster attracted over 15,000 visitors - the largest crowd ever. Though I was able to walk through portions of the museum, it is relatively small and packed as it was last weekend, it was difficult to see and fully appreciate the exhibits. I hope to return on a day when it's not so crowded and I can more leisurely enjoy the exhibits.

Most of the time we were there I sat in a chair waiting for the speeches and demonstrations to begin. The program began when five Navy Frogmen - "Leap Frogs" - jumped out of a C-130 from 6,000 feet and landed in the center of the small field in front of us. I think I held my breath, praying, most of the approximately 5 minutes it took for the first frogman to land. As we stood for the singing of the National Anthem, the last "leaping" frogman landed carrying the American Flag.

Before the ground demonstrations, we heard several speeches, including U.S. Navy Academy graduate and former presidential candidate, 81 year old Ross Perot. Speaking to the large number of past and current SEALs present, Perot said, "What you do for our country makes all the difference in the world in the lives of every citizen. Your service and sacrifices have given us the freedom we have are the guardians at the gates of freedom."

Perot praised the SEAL team responsible for the killing of Al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and showed us bin Laden's walking cane - a gift to Perot from the special forces that had recovered it from a cave in Afghanistan. {Unfortunately, at the moment Perot held up the cane for us to see, Gavin was sitting in my lap trying to braid my hair and I couldn't get to my camera fast enough, but a photo captured by Reuters can be seen here.}

Following Perot's speech, SEAL units demonstrated how they might respond on the ground. The ground team emerged from a purple fog in Vietnam era fatigues. After moving through the field, they were greeted by men who had been members of SEAL Team One, the first SEAL team from WWII. These older gentlemen helped the ground team exchange their Vietnam clothing and arsenal with what they might use today.

As the ground team returned to the demonstration and headed for a mock Al Qaida hideout, a sniper rose up out of the ground from under a piece of cardboard. When a member of the Al Qaida ran out of the hideout, they were forced to the ground by a canine member of the SEAL time.

In a final show of force, SEAL manned vehicles arrived, gathered the SEALs that had been engaged in "battle" on the ground, as well as their "prisoners", and blew up the Al Qaida hideout as they sped away.

At the conclusion of the program, all past and present members of a SEAL team were asked to move into the center of the field for a photo. I managed to capture a few photos of the group as they concluded the official photography setting. Those photos, as well as other photos from last Saturday, can be seen here.

Today's "A month of gratitude" post will go up later.