Seabees Supporting Seabees: The Memorial
In 1970, the Seabee Memorial Association (SMA) was formed to sponsor and build a monument in Washington, D.C. to honor the memory of those who served in Naval Construction Battalions (Seabees). The original concept for the memorial would have a Seabee stepping off a bulldozer and being greeted by children. The theme being presented is "Building for Peace". A 401-foot-long bas-relief would stand in the rear of the Seabee depicting various construction tools, equipment and skills. Mr. Felix de Weldon, who also sculpted the world famous United States Marine Corps Iwo Jima Memorial, was selected to design the memorial. The monument was to be located on Memorial Drive entering into Arlington Cemetery.
At that initial meeting the basic organization of the Association and the initial functional plans were approved. A tentative estimated fund raising target of $1.5 - 2.0 MM, of which $250,000 - $500,000 would possibly be used for a Seabee Memorial monument and the remainder for college scholarships was established. A Joint Resolution was introduced (H.J. Res. 1407) on November, 23, 1970 in the House of Representatives; that a possible target date for completion of the memorial could be March 1972, the 30th anniversary of the Seabees. The proposed college scholarship program included awards, ranging from $500 to $2,000 for deserving dependents of active, retired, reserve or deceased Seabees. At the time it was suggested that the names of major contributors be used for the various scholarship grants and that practice continues today. The two first donations to SMA were Mr. Hunter Wharton, on behalf of the International Operating Engineers, for $5,000 and Spearin, Preston & Burrows of New York City, which contributed $25,000.
The Seabee Memorial was dedicated on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27, 1974 and was attended by the officers, sailors and civilian supporters of the Seabees. The initial budget of $224,000 for the Memorial had been exceeded by $77,000, making the total cost of the monument $301,000.
In 1979, SMA was re-incorporated as the Seabee Memorial Scholarship Association (SMSA). Today, the Board of Directors is composed of retired, reserve, and active duty officers and Seabees and the National Commander of the Seabee Veterans of America. The Scholarship Selection Committee consists of a cross section of officer and enlisted Seabees and volunteers. This board meets annually in May to review applications and select scholarship recipients for the upcoming school year.
Since 1972, through the generosity of its supporters, SMSA has provided scholarships to over 1200 children and grandchildren of Seabees and CEC Officers seeking a college education. Over the years, SMSA has increased the value of each scholarship from $600 to as much as $5,200, and the number of students with SMSA scholarships in any year has grown from 6 to over 160.
In December of 2023, the SMSA merged with the CEC/Seabee Historical Foundation to become the Navy Seabee Foundation
The Seabee Memorial depicts Seabee missions between 1942 and 1970. Inscriptions on the Memorial proudly proclaim “SEABEES CAN DO”, “With willing hearts and skillful hands, the difficult we do at once. The impossible takes a bit longer! “ and “With compassion for others, we build, we fight for peace with freedom.”