SEAL Wives, Widows Embark on Journey Against Terrorism
By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2003 Tears for those they lost in the line of duty - particularly in the global war on terrorism - mixed with cheers here today as 10 women began the first leg of a 300-nautical-mile journey to New York City.
The SEAL Wives Against Terrorism Boat Tour is raising scholarship funds for the children and families of the Navy SEALs community, including those killed during the war on terrorism. Funds will be distributed through the Naval Special Warfare Foundation.
Before embarking on their five-day journey up the East Coast, the crew stopped at the Pentagon seawall for a brief wreath-laying ceremony.
Members of SEAL Wives Against Terrorism, known as SWAT, gather for a photo before leaving the Columbia Island Marina docks. The women will motor 300 nautical miles, from Washington, D.C., to New York City, to raise scholarship funds for the children and families of the Navy SEALs community, including those who perished during the war on terrorism. Photo by K.L. Vantran
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Greeted by calm waters and sunny skies, it didn't take long for the two 24-foot Zodiak HomeGuard Defender boats to motor from Columbia Island Marina to the Pentagon wall. The boats are designed specifically for homeland security missions, and will stay afloat even if punctured by a bullet, according to a press release. These are the boats the women will pilot up the Potomac River en route to New York City.
After brief introductions and words from the chaplain, Army Col. George Campbell, several in the small group were moved to tears.
Thomas W. O'Connell, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low- intensity conflict, stretched out his arms and gathered in those closest to him. Soon a circle enveloped the wreath that SWAT members had brought with them. In hushed tones, O'Connell offered his sympathies and appreciation to the ladies for the sacrifices they have endured and the courage they portray every day. He also presented each with an Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Special Operations, coin.
High-school friends Courtney and Teresa, now 27 years old and members of the SWAT crew, said they knew the Pentagon ceremony would be emotional. Courtney's husband, Tom, was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan in June.
No last names of SEALs or the wives are being used in this article at the group's request.
"It was so moving. I'm very honored to have been a part of it," said Courtney, the mother of two boys, ages 2 and 5.
"It was more moving than I thought it would be," added Teresa, the wife of an active duty SEAL. "We had to get out the tissues for that one. Courtney is my best friend. I'm here for her, and for all who've lost someone."
Courtney said her husband would approve of what she's doing. "At first it would be disbelief, then he'd drive me nuts. He'd be going over my gear list, making me try things on."
"And," added Teresa with a laugh, "he'd be taking you on practice runs."
"Right," agreed Courtney.
Teresa said at first her husband was concerned the weather would be too cold for her, but once he knew what equipment and clothing she would have, he decided she'd be OK. "He's pretty proud of me," she added.
Teresa and Courtney described themselves as "inside girls" and said they look forward to sharing this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The women received training on how to operate the boats, and each will take a turn at the helm, said Carlin, SWAT Boat Tour team leader, who was instrumental in organizing the tour.
"We'll take one-hour shifts and work with one another on navigating," she added. "A lot of people have made sacrifices since Sept. 11 (2001). I wanted to contribute, and this exemplifies how strong a commitment we have."
The team leader lauded the dedication of the crew, which includes three widows. The boat tour, said Carlin, is in memory of these husbands as well as others who paid the ultimate price in the line of duty. "I'm very honored and very proud to be part of this," she said.
The boats are slated to stop at the City Dock in Annapolis, Md., Oct. 25. From there, they'll head up through the Chesapeake and Delaware bays toward Atlantic City, N.J. Arrival in New York City Harbor is set for Oct. 28. A Web site for the tour contains more information and the ability to track the tour's progress. The SWAT Boat Tour is sponsored by Zodiac of North America and the Zodiac Maritime Training Academy for first responders, Mustang Survival Inc., Raymarine Inc. and Bombardier Motor Corp.