There is a place in Coronado where history and heroism literally hangs on the wall. Their portraits display a reminder of what was lost on 9/11 and in the wars that followed—face by face, life by life, brother by brother.
There are nearly 40 of them. And while that number pales in comparison to the 2,752 lives that were lost that September day and the more than 3,500 U.S. military members who have died since then, these select few mean everything to the group of men who serve or served this country as U.S. Navy SEALs.
They call it the wall of Our Fallen Heroes, where the pictures of every Navy SEAL who has been killed since 9/11 hang above the bar at .
This Orange Avenue watering hole is known for its burgers and beer. It’s also a popular hangout for Navy SEALs, along with , just a few blocks down the road.
After President Barack Obama announced on Sunday that Osama bin Laden had been killed, and as word quickly spread that Navy SEALs were involved in the mission that led to his death and capture, these two Coronado hotspots became filled with locals looking to mark the occasion.
It is a victory of sorts—10 years in the making. “It’s like my Fourth of July,” a Navy SEAL cheered.
Navy insiders say the mission, called Operation Geronimo, was executed by SEAL Team 6, also known as DevGru, the Navy SEAL’s counterterrorism team. Team 6, which is based on the East Coast, is also credited with the killing of three Somali pirates in 2009, a story that made headlines across the world.
The SEALs as a whole are an elite group within the U.S. Navy. To become a SEAL, members must pass Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, or BUD/S. The notoriously intense and grueling course takes place at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado.
BUD/S has an attrition rate of about 75 percent. Only the fittest in both body and mind survive, and out of the wreckage, the Navy’s most well-trained warriors emerge.
The SEAL acronym is derived from the unique ability to operate in the sea, air and land. The teams are especially known for their inimitable underwater skills, which is one of the reasons they train in Coronado. The city’s peninsula provides easy access to both bay and ocean waters—a convenient and necessary combination rarely found elsewhere.
The SEALs are an ever-elusive group that takes pride in keeping a low profile. They typically won’t let you take their pictures and won’t talk about where they’ve been or what they’ve done. Most of this is for the sake of national security—and to protect their lives and the lives of their families.
But if you go into Danny’s and stare at the wall of Our Fallen Heroes, you will see the faces of some of these men. Suddenly, the price of war becomes all too real.
Each fallen hero has a family—a wife, a mother or a child who misses them—and a story—the details of where they came from, the battles they fought and how they died.
The men who frequent there, most of whom are SEALs, will point to the wall and say: “I knew him,” “He was in my platoon,” “I was at his funeral,” “I held his wife while she cried her eyes out,” “I had to call his parents and tell them he was dead,” “He was one of the best kids I’ve ever met,” and, above all else, “He was a badass motherf-----.”
A hard-edged gritty truth permeates the walls of this place. But there is an overwhelming sense of patriotism and brotherhood that fills the air.
“I smile every day because of these guys,” one man said. Not because of their deaths, he explained, but because of the life that their deaths have given us all.
Of course the war is not over. Many lives have been lost along the way, and more will likely be lost in the months ahead.
But in Coronado, there is an underlying sentiment that justice has been served—justice for the faces on that wall, and the faces of so many others. For them, enemy No. 1 is dead.
The sign in front of McP’s reads “Mission Accomplished” in bold red letters. And as one Navy SEAL repeated over and over again, “It means so much. It means so much.”