Before World War II, Fort Pond Bay’s Navy Beach area was a sleepy fishing village. But in 1943, that all changed when the U.S. Navy removed homes, restaurants and businesses to construct a base and a torpedo testing range for the war effort.For two years, the Navy occupied Montauk, using the Montauk Manor as barracks for soldiers, the Long Island Rail Road Station as the main gatehouse, and the Fisher office tower as officers’ quarters and dormitories.
Just before the war ended in May 1945, the station was disestablished, and the buildings were bid off and sold.
But almost 70 years later, the servicemen who served there are being memorialized. Navy Beach restaurant on Navy Road is throwing its second annual fundraiser for the Navy SEAL Foundation on Saturday.
According to the restaurant’s co-owner Frank Davis, it seemed only natural that the restaurant honor the area’s roots.
“The restaurant didn’t connect to the Navy, the Navy connected to the restaurant,” he said. “Our location is directly where the Navy occupied during World War II. In fact, the road is poured concrete done by the Navy back in the 1940s, and they named it Navy Road.”
In the restaurant’s five years of operation, many veterans have frequented there, and one, Bruce Wenchell, who now lives in Sag Harbor, just happened to be stationed there during World War II, Mr. Davis said. “What started out as general conversation started repeating itself,” he said. “This led to connections in the Navy, and then on to the Navy SEALs. We’re deeply inspired by the SEALs.”
The Navy SEALs (which stands for “sea, air and land”) were established by President John F. Kennedy in 1962 as a small, elite maritime military force able to carry out covert high-impact missions that large forces cannot.
“Whenever you meet these gentlemen, you notice that they have an internal confidence that is hard to describe, and they are courteous at the same time,” Mr. Davis said.
Through the restaurant’s relationship with veterans and Navy personnel, it has grown close to the Navy SEAL Foundation, which provides support to the Naval Special Warfare community and their families. The foundation puts money toward warrior support, family services, education, tragedy assistance, survivor support and legacy preservation.
The foundation raised more than $13 million over its 14-year existence for these programs, and last year Navy Beach contributed $17,000 alone from its fundraiser and from donations over the summer season.
This year, the restaurant is looking to beat that number, Mr. Davis said. The first $2,500 raised will be matched by the restaurant.
Saturday’s fundraiser will feature a cocktail party, for $40 a ticket, and a chance to mingle with Navy SEALs, Naval Special Warfare members and Navy SEAL Foundation representatives, while local singer-songwriter Nancy Atlas performs. The fundraiser will continue through the summer—guests who dine there will be able to donate at least $1 at the bottom of their dining check as well.
Mr. Davis said almost every cent on the dollar goes toward the Navy SEAL Foundation’s cause.
“Unfortunately, after a Navy SEAL perishes in training or at work, NSF helps the kids go to college and pays for relocation fees after a death of someone with a wife and family,” he said. “I think what they do is just astonishing. This is a small way to contribute to a small group. There are really only several thousand in the world … and they don’t get paid very much.”
According to Robin King, the CEO of the Navy SEAL Foundation, SEALs spend up to 270 days away from home each year, missing birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and even the birth of their own children, and they serve in the most unforgiving environments to execute the nation’s toughest military missions.
Lawrence Kelly, an attorney who served in 2009 as a Senior Rule of Law Advisor for the U.S. Department of State with a Provincial Reconstruction Team in southern Iraq, works as the local representative for the Navy SEAL Foundation and initially encouraged Navy Beach to get involved.
Mr. Kelly said he had been involved with veteran charities ever since September 11 and even helped to pass legislation that requires the federal government to pay seriously wounded veterans up to $100,000 to pay for hospital bills and physical rehabilitation. His nephew, Ryan Kelly of Austin, Texas, was seriously wounded in Baghdad.
He said his interaction with veterans and the special forces community got him involved in the Navy SEAL Foundation, which he firmly believes in.
“I think by having the event in Montauk, it allows the South Fork community to take a look at the program and hear from some of the people and families that have been helped, talk to some SEALs, and begin to consider the NSF as part of their charitable giving,” he said. “To me, the NSF is the best of the charities, because the entire board has Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL designation, which means they got through SEAL training. You can know that whatever monies you contribute are not only well-spent but well-supervised by an executive board that would scare the heck out of anybody.”
He said the event at Navy Beach is appropriate in another way too. Its location and ambiance add to the idea of the cause. “Navy Beach has the best sunsets around,” he said. “It’s always the concept when serving overseas that the sunset reminds you of bringing the colors down. It’s just a privilege.” To RSVP, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The event runs from 4 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 21. For more information about the foundation, visit navysealfoundation.org.