Ball celebrates 77th anniversary of Navy Seabees
Blairsville, Ga. – Veterans from as far away as Atlanta and Tennessee put on their finest attire to attend the Military Ball at North Georgia Technical College on Saturday night.
This was the fourth year the Navy Seabee Veterans of America Island X-3 has hosted the ball celebrating the anniversary of the Seabees. Keith Hunter, commander of the Blairsville group, said the ball is a gathering for all military branches since the Seabees, while organized as part of the U.S. Navy, works with all branches. The ball is not a fundraiser – they break even on the costs.
“The main goal is to build some goodwill,” Hunter said.
About 75 veterans, family members and others shared in the goodwill that included a dinner, door prizes, quizzes, history and dancing.
Retired Marine 1st Sgt. Donald Wojcik of Murphy’s favorite moments of the nights were when an armed forces medley was played and getting to meet two Navy veterans who served in World War II, Clarence “Bud” Johnson of Hiawassee, Ga., and Jack Pope of Stone Mountain, Ga., who also served as a Marine. He was impressed that Johnson watched both flags raised on Iwo Jima.
“That’s awesome,” Wojcik said.
Wojack and his wife, Pamela, were invited to the ball by his mother-in-law, whose husband was a Seabee.
“I enjoyed it all,” he said. “It was well put together.”
The U.S. Navy Seabees were created on March 5, 1942, as a response to the strike on Pearl Harbor, said guest speaker Neal Beard, a retired Seabee from Tennessee. The idea was to bring in construction workers, train them and arm them, so if captured they could be treated as prisoners of war instead of civilians. Ever since, the Seabees have been used in conflicts, although in recent years several jobs are being replaced by defense contractors.
“I hope the Seabees last forever,” Beard said. “It’s just a special unit.”
The Blairsville Navy Seabee Veterans of America has only been around for four years. In that time, they have done several projects for veterans and widows of veterans, including building wheelchair ramps and decks.
The group also provides a scholarship for a high school student interested in working in the trades. Chapters of the veteran organization are called “Islands” because Seabees in World War II would describe their location as “Island X” so they would not disclose their location.