I’m obviously not cut out for special warfare. That was apparent before I even reached the front door of the National Navy SEAL Museum, an inspiring tribute to the history, skills and ongoing mission of the Navy’s elite special operations force.
The museum — along State Road A1A North on Hutchinson Island, east of downtown Fort Pierce — chronicles the Navy’s sea, air and land teams from their origin in World War II to heroic modern-day assignments such as the killing of terrorist Osama bin Laden and the rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips after his freighter was captured by Somali pirates. The Maersk Alabama lifeboat from Phillips’ cargo ship is on display here.
On the lawn outside the museum, an array of military watercraft is displayed. I shook my head in wonder at the courage required to board a SEAL Delivery Vehicle. It’s a claustrophobia-inducing, hollow metal tube that is filled with water and submerged, so that SEALs in frogman gear can pilot it to shore through shallow water.
If someone put me inside it, I’m pretty sure I’d freak out on dry land.
Inside the museum, a pull-up bar is accompanied by a sign: “How many pull-ups can you do? Can you be a Navy SEAL?” A few brave souls put their names and push-up total (all in single digits) on the white board. Sorry, but my total is classified information.
Two galleries feature artifacts and interactive exhibits of Navy SEAL contributions in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. There’s recognition of the Underwater Demolition Teams that assisted with splashdowns of NASA space missions from the advent of the space program through the Apollo moon flights.
I lingered longest in the room featuring a Desert Storm-era Humvee and Light Tactical All Terrain Vehicle. If you’ve wondered what it would be like to be photographed by a drone, you can find out here.
The most somber exhibits are two pieces of steel removed from the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Looking at the enormous bolts on the steel beam from the Trade Center’s South Tower on the museum lawn, it’s hard not to marvel at the enormity of the 9/11 destruction.
Likewise, the skill and sacrifice of the SEALs are memorably showcased in a short film presented on the deck of an 82-foot Mark V Operations Craft.
A fitting salute to a truly elite force.
If you go
What: National Navy SEAL Museum and Memorial
Where: 3300 N. Highway A1A, North Hutchinson Island, Fort Pierce
Information: 772-595-5845, https://www.navysealmuseum.org/. Website includes tips if you plan to parachute in or arrive by way of a SCUBA insertion
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sunday noon to 4 p.m.
Admission: Adults (13 years and older) $8, 6 to 12 years $4, under 6 free