A team of retired US Navy SEALs will go on a mission this weekend, but instead of hiding in the dark of night, they’ll be riding motorcycles with an important message for fellow frogmen.
After four years of planning, the first Twistin’ the Wrist for Frogmen hike begins Saturday, March 5 in Fort Pierce, Fla., home of the Navy SEALs.
Eight former SEALs will travel to California, making stops at Harley-Davidson stores across Florida, the Gulf Coast, New Mexico, Arizona and ending at the USS Midway Museum in San Diego.
“That’s where we started. It is our house. It’s the mothership,” said retired Navy SEAL Jesse Clay of the Navy SEAL Museum at Fort Pierce.
The museum’s goal is to preserve the history and heritage of SEALS and to serve their families through the Trident House Charities program. The motorcycle ride is designed to support the elite SEAL community and their families and raise awareness of the sacrifice SEALs endure for our freedom.
While a 3,000-mile motorcycle ride might be safer than some of their duties to protect their country, the group is spreading a vital message: how to support soldiers returning home.
“Our biggest thing is letting people know that when these guys come home, they have to show A. some respect, and B. have to show some understanding,” Clay said. “It’s kind of like training a dog to bite, and then all of a sudden the dog has no one to bite… Our goal is to help people reconnect with their families, to let people know what we do and what we stand for. Let them know they are protected.
Clay became a Navy SEAL in the 1980s and served for approximately 14 years, deploying to South America, Europe and the Middle East.
Upon his return, Clay described what many veterans have gone through. He missed the camaraderie, the team atmosphere and above all, the understanding of another member of the team.
“When you’re part of the team, everything is fine. You know, it’s high speed, low drag, and you’re up and running, and you can count on your brothers and your support, and you’re fine,” Clay said. “Then once you leave that environment, everything is different.”
Jesse Clay during his years of service as a Navy SEAL. (Image credit: Jesse Clay/Navy SEAL Museum)
Clay said he was fortunate to meet members of the Vietnam SEAL Team who became like family to him and supported him when he needed it most. He continued this circle of brotherhood over the years.
“I started training some of the young guys to go into sparring, and then as they came back I noticed they were going through a lot of the same things I was going through,” he recalled. “So, as someone was there for me during the Vietnam era, I tried to be there for them, coming back from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan.”
Clay continued his involvement in the military as an instructor with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, teaching courses to law enforcement and the military.
His love for motorcycles and sharing that knowledge led him to teach classes for Harley-Davidson and team up with Harley and the Navy SEAL Museum for the first Twistin’ the Wrist for Frogmen ride which will benefit the Trident House program. Museum charities.
Each stop on the ride will be at a Harley-Davidson dealership, where frogmen will be welcomed with open arms. Clay said they had so many offers to house them that they had to turn some down.
“The response has been incredible, but we only have a few days,” he said.
After a launch party in Daytona Beach at the Daytona International Speedway for Bike Week, the group will begin the ride west to Panama City Beach and then to New Orleans. They will spend a night in Beaumont, Texas before continuing to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where they will meet a special group of Marines.
Clay lights up when he talks about his encounter with the Navajo Code Talkers in New Mexico, referring to the group of American Indians who used tribal language to send covert communications during both World Wars.
“That’s how we won the First and Second World Wars. We managed to send messages in their native language,” said Clay.
The voyage culminates at the USS Midway Museum in San Diego on March 17.
Once you become a SEAL, Clay said you never forget your brothers, but that support extends to all service members.
“If you know anyone in the military — past or present — who is going through a tough time, reach out, let us know,” Clay said.
The Navy SEAL Museum is a good resource for someone looking for help. Clay said just having a conversation with another veteran is a great start.
“It’s interesting how easily you can communicate with someone once they know you’ve been where they are, been in their shoes, or understand what they’re going through,” Clay said. “It makes things pretty simple. Then a lot of walls come down.