Perseverance, Sacrifice, Gratitude: Lessons from a Navy SEAL

On Friday, May 17, Groton welcomed Navy SEAL Steven “Dutch” Van Horn to the Circle, providing students with a rare opportunity to interact with a high ranking officer who was at the forefront of events they learn about in textbooks.

Command Master Chief Van Horn was the senior enlisted SEAL in charge of the Gold Squadron of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), which conducts highly classified operations for the U.S. Navy. History teacher Jen Wallace, who hosted the speaker, called DEVGRU "the most elite of the elite" in counterterrorism operations.

Gathering in the Schoolhouse's Sackett Forum, students asked the speaker a variety of questions. Through his answers, "Dutch" told a story of perseverance, sacrifice, and gratitude. When asked about his training, he described the four-week BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) program, which he said pushed him and his companions past their limits every day. Within the BUD/S program was "hell week," when the training SEALS went through intense physical exercise, functioning on one hour of sleep for the entire week.

Even throughout the painful training, Dutch never thought of quitting even once. He spoke of sacrifices, concerning his family and friends in the military, and concluded with words about gratitude. Though training was painful and his years as a SEAL did not come without costs, he said he was grateful for the opportunity to serve his country.

A visit from Command Master Chief Van Horn provided students with an experience that hours of reading could not match. By hearing his story of determination and sacrifice, students began to understand that global conflicts are more than just land disputes and regime changes, but are actually the struggles of countless individuals. This message, which many leaders of the world seem to have forgotten, will stay with many Groton students forever, thanks to Command Master Chief Van Horn.Steven Pang '22