Seabee Memorial Scholarship Association: Building America’s Future Gala
An Evening of Honor, Dedication, and Education
by Rosie Van Schoor
One of the greatest benefits of owning and running your own business is meeting new people and discovering new ideas through them. The old cliché of “It’s not what you know, but who you know” rings true every day, as we meet business owners, C-level executives, and their close circle of friends and family. With each new person comes exciting new possibilities for growth – in business and in personal life. One such example is my good friend Heather, who recently invited me to attend the Seabee Memorial Scholarship Association: Building America’s Future Gala in Washington, D.C. As a representative for her company, a large construction firm, she found herself uniquely poised to enjoy an evening of elbow-rubbing with some of the most influential people in D.C…. and she invited me.
The Seabee Memorial Scholarship Association is the nation’s only provider of need-based scholarships to children and grandchildren of America’s Navy Seabees and Civil Engineer Corps service members attending accredited colleges and universities. In 2015, the Association provided over $250,000 in scholarships to students to attend a two or four-year academic institution. Most of the scholarship recipients graduate in the top 10% of their class. The average family income of students from these Seabee families is less than $45,000 so these scholarships help ensure they can achieve their academic goals. (Source: www.seabee.org)
The Building America’s Future Gala, to benefit the Seabee Memorial Scholarship Association (SMSA), served as the kickoff for the association’s celebration of the Seabee’s 75th Anniversary. In addition to recognizing the grueling and brave work of Seabees who deploy globally for combat, disaster relief and humanitarian missions, the Gala honored those whose vision and support is vital to the Association’s work. (Source: www.seabee.org/gala)
Some of you might be wondering… Well, what is a Seabee and what does it have to do with an awards gala? For those of you not familiar with the term “Seabee”, a Seabee is a member of the United States Naval Construction Forces (NCF). The word “Seabee” comes from initials “CB”, which in turn comes from the term “Construction Battalion”. From the island hopping of World War II and the cold of Korea, to the jungles of Vietnam, to the mountains of Bosnia, and to the deserts of Afghanistan and Kuwait, the Seabees have built entire bases, thousands of miles of roadway and airstrips, and accomplished a myriad of construction projects. (Learn More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seabee)
As the daughter of a Naval service man, I was embarrassed I didn’t know about The Seabees, their history of dedication and hard work. As a business philanthropist, I was annoyed I didn’t know about their education fund. I used this realization as an opportunity to learn, engage, and partake in a little elbow-rubbing myself… all thanks to Heather!
The evening arrived and I drove all the way from Parkville, MD to Annapolis, MD (in terrible traffic) to meet with Heather at her location. Dressed in our best gowns, we then proceeded to the luxurious Omni Shoreham in Washington, D.C., where the event was to take place. Upon our arrival, it was clear this was going to be an evening to remember – with officers in their freshly pressed uniforms, ladies in designer gowns, and an open bar to set the right mood and to get strangers mingling.
The reception hall was like something out of a dream! Descending twin staircases into the room made me feel a bit like a movie star, as well dressed men and glittering ladies looked up to see who had arrived. Upon entering, we were soon greeted by an authentic WWII scuba diving suit, guarded by two sage-looking military officials who may have been in that war. Heather did her duty as a gracious host, making sure I had a drink upon arrival and introducing me to several employees of her company. As small business owner, I’m often intimidated by large groups of highly successful business owners and their staff… but, on this night, it felt easy to meet and enjoy the company of strangers. We were all there to celebrate the men and women who, through extraordinary efforts, would soon be recognized on stage.
The reception was lovely, but the awards hall was even more impressive. Table after table of well-appointed settings adorned fresh linens, accented by flowers in the Seabees Colors – navy blue and yellow, of course. The chef must have spent many hours preparing the meal to be served, as it was perfectly paired with appetizing salads and decedent desserts. Even the coffee was exceptional! While we enjoyed the company of the Heather’s business associates at dinner, the Navy’s famous swing band performed classic Jazz standards. Throughout the awards ceremony, it quickly became apparent we were sharing the room with some of America’s greatest heroes, philanthropists, and statesmen.
By the end of the evening, Heather and I, both, felt a deep sense of honor and appreciation. Attending the Gala helped reinforce the dedication we feel towards our military service men and women, and set us on the path towards finding new ways to express our appreciation for their hard work. Finding yourself in a room filled with so much excellence can only inspire and encourage further growth in an individual… and, so, we, too, have adopted the Seabees’ slogan “We Build. We Fight.”