By Dawn Krebs
ST. LUCIE COUNTY - This Veteran's Day weekend, the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum has planned several special events for the public.
"There will be a lot of good fun," said Ruth McSween, curator for the museum. "We have expanded what we are offering. It's almost like a brand-new event."
The entire weekend is packed from Friday through Sunday at the museum, which is the only one in the country open to the public. The other SEAL museums are located on military bases and are restricted to military personnel only.
The weekend begins on Friday with a rehearsal by the Navy SEALs for their performance on Saturday. The rehearsal is open to the public and will include simulated helicopter assault and sniper attacks.
"A lot of people come to the rehearsal," Ms. McSween said. "It's fun to watch."
Afterward, the annual membership dinner will take place. It is slightly different this year, because it is open to the public for $50 per ticket. The theme is a Hawaiian luau and it is sponsored by Kathy Townsend and the Melon Patch Inn.
"We wanted people to see everything they could get if they wanted to join as a member, so we are allowing them to come to the membership dinner if they are interested," she said.
Saturday is the big day, and it starts off early with a 5K run on the beach at 7 a.m. This is the eighth year of the run, which allows residents to run alongside real Navy SEALs.
"People will be able to sign up for the run up to and including the morning of the event," Ms. McSween said.
Then the ceremonies and the Navy Parachute Team "Leap Frogs" will begin at 11 a.m.
What's new this year is the expanded parking the event will be providing.
"We have 11 acres of parking now for people to use, and the city and county will be providing free trolley transportation from the parking area to the event," she said. "People will find it to be much more organized and efficient."
The parachute team will parachute onto the museum grounds and the Navy SEAL commandos will conduct a mock helicopter assault and hostage rescue. As part of expanding the event, more bleachers have been added, and the demonstration will take place in Pepper Park, the county-owned park next to the nuseum.
The keynote speaker of the event is Adm. William McRaven, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command credited with organizing and executing the May 2, 2011, Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama Bin Laden.
According to a press release from the museum, \\ Leon Panetta, CIA director, gave the job of planning the attack to Adm. McRaven, who ultimately decided on a small helicopter attack.
The museum recently received a scale model of the bin Laden compound that was constructed for a "60 minutes" television segment.
Other speakers at the event will include U.S. Rep. Allen West and the trio Marcus Luttrell, Michael Thornton and Thomas Norris, Vietnam-era SEALs and Medal of Honor recipients. Mr. Norris received the medal for going behind enemy lines to rescue two downed pilots in April 1972 and Mr. Thornton received the medal for rescuing a badly wounded Mr. Norris six months later.
It is suggested that attendees arrive early because of traffic and the high security that surrounds the event.
Throughout the day, there will be refreshments, booths with information on local, state and national veteran's organizations and children's activities.
Inside the museum, Thunder, an American bald eagle that was rescued and rehabilitated, will be on display.
Later that evening, the chief's muster party will be held for SEALs and residents on the museum grounds. For $10, residents will receive a Dale's barbecue sandwich, beans and coleslaw, along with two drinks. There will also be a live band and a raffle. The first 250 people will also receive a Team Zero membership card.
On Sunday, Veteran's Day, the museum will open at 10 a.m. and at 11 a.m., a skeet-shooting fundraiser called "Fire in the Hole," will take place in Palm City.
"The Sunday shooting event is pretty much sold out," said Ms. McSween. "Everyone has been so supportive of the museum."
Muster organizers are expecting more than 15,000 people to attend.
The National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum is located at 3300 N. A1A in Fort Pierce.
For more information about the busy weekend the museum has planned, call (772) 595-5845 or go online to its website at www.navysealmuseum.com.