February 26, 2008 - A packed Memorial Hall, its hallowed "Don't Give Up the Ship" flag firmly in place, provided the stage Monday for a moving medal award ceremony honoring the late Navy Lieutenant M. Spence Dry that was too long in coming but still greatly appreciated by his family, U.S. Naval Academy classmates, his other friends, and many admirers.
Those classmates from the Academy class of 1968 included Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who addressed the gathering.
Also addressing the group was Rear Admiral Joseph D. Kernan, Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command. Also attending, representing the Brigade of Midshipmen, was Midshipman Captain Zerbin M. Singleton, the Brigade Commander.
Another classmate, U.S. Senator James Webb, tied up in Washington, issued a statement in which he described Lieutenant Dry's long delayed award as "a well deserved validation of the risks that he took and the quality of his service to our nation."
Lieutenant Dry, revered by his men, was the last SEAL to die in the Vietnam War. His heroism went unrewarded until now because of secrecy issues, but the oversight was corrected thanks to a tribute from two classmates who told his stirring story in the July 2005 issue of Proceedings.
The Proceedings article,"Spence Dry, A SEAL's Story" by retired Navy Captains Michael G. Slattery and Gordon I. Peterson, triggered a chain of events that resulted in Monday's ceremony at which the Bronze Star with Combat ""V"" was presented to members of his family.
Lieutenant Dry was killed in early 1972 when a highly classified mission aimed at rescuing U.S. prisoners of war went awry. The story of his tragic death, as related by Captains Slattery and Peterson, caught the attention of Commander John D. Chamberlain, skipper of the amphibious-transport submarine that launched the SEAL mission.
Commander Chamberlain, now a retired Navy captain, collected naval messages, official documents, personal statements from witnesses and submitted Lieutenant Dry's name and that of a fellow SEAL, then Chief Warrant Officer, later Lieutenant, Philip L. ""Moki"" Martin, for awards in November 2005. The Navy authorized the medals last October.