Navy SEAL monument in the works for Virginia Beach Boardwalk

By STACY PARKER | The Virginian-Pilot (Tribune News Service) | Published: January 11, 2017

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Statues of police officers, pilots, surfers and a fitness guru stand in the spaces between hotels in the resort area, but a tribute to the Navy’s most elite force is missing from the landscape.

That could soon change.

Capt. Rick Woolard, a retired Navy SEAL, is spearheading an effort to bring a SEAL heritage monument to the Boardwalk.

“A monument to honor them is overdue, and there is no better place for one than Virginia Beach, where their earliest forerunners came together 75 years ago,” he said.

Navy SEAL history began in Virginia Beach in 1942 when volunteers for special missions came together and trained, Woolard said.

About a year ago, a Navy aviator friend of his called about adding a SEAL obelisk to the existing Naval Aviation Monument Park on 25th Street. Woolard looked at the site, but he didn’t see enough space.

“It would have been small and cramped,” he said.

With recommendations from the city, he set his sights on 38th Street for a stand-alone SEAL monument featuring the “Naked Warrior” statue, a life-size bronze sculpture portraying a “frogman” of the U.S. Navy’s Underwater Demolition Teams of World War II. He wears swim trunks and carries a pair of fins, and he stands atop a concrete base designed to look like an underwater obstacle.

The same statue is featured at the entrance to the National Navy SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Fla., where Woolard serves on the museum’s board of directors.

“I’m delighted to see this opportunity,” Mayor Will Sessoms said Wednesday.

Next to the Boardwalk at the beach, the statue would be “nestled into the site,” said Matt Pearson, a senior architect with Clark Nexsen. The company is designing the monument pro bono so far, Woolard said.

A stone wall capped with granite and inscribed with the history of SEALs and their predecessors would surround it. A star for every SEAL, and a paw print for every SEAL war dog killed in the line of duty would be embedded in the wall.

A “living beach,” with sand from significant places around the world where SEALs have trained and fought, would surround the base of the statue. The monument would be next to a hotel and a condominium tower.

The project will cost several hundred thousand dollars to install, and a fundraising campaign is under way. Woolard has submitted the project plans to the city’s public art officials. If approved by the City Council, he hopes to break ground in a month or so and dedicate it on Memorial Day.

“I really want to get it done before Memorial Day,” the mayor said. “It will certainly be expedited if they have the money.”

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Capt. Rick Woolard, a retired Navy SEAL, is spearheading an effort to bring a SEAL heritage monument to Virginia Beach.


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