‘Incredibly influential’: Fallen Navy SEAL commander remembered for heroic leadership and dedication to family

Navy

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Uncommon valor is a common virtue in the U.S. Navy, and those who knew Cmdr. Brian Bourgeois say he exemplified that rare bravery in his life — and in his death.

“Brian was an incredibly influential midshipman,” said U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association spokesman Wesley Huey.

The 43-year-old commanding officer of the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team 8 died at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital on Tuesday after he was injured in a training accident. Bourgeois’ 20-year Navy career included a dozen accolades, including a Bronze Star.

“He was a bridge-builder. The kind of leader that got people together, unified them to achieve a common purpose,” Huey said.

“The guy that does the hard work of building relationships and making people understand that they’re all important — whatever role they play on the team is important,” Huey said.

Initial reports from the Navy show that the tragedy happened during a fast-rope training evolution on Saturday. Fast-roping is a difficult and dangerous maneuver used by Navy SEALS to descend from helicopters when the aircraft can’t touch down.

“He was leading from the front,” Huey said.

“He was doing what he asked of his men, and he was doing it assuming the very same risks,” he continued.

Bourgeois graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2001, beginning his career just months before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Huey said from the time of his Naval Academy graduation to his death, Bourgeois was steeped in training, war, and combat.

“They were deployed or operational, doing what the nation called them to do, almost from the very moment that they took their oath of office,” Huey said of the Naval Academy’s class of 2001.

Bourgeois’ name will be added to the Naval Academy’s Memorial Hall where the institution honors those who have been lost in combat or operations.

“It’s one of the most sanctified places on the Naval Academy, and unfortunately we’ll have to add Brian’s name to that list,” Huey said.

During his time at the Naval Academy, Bourgeois was a four-year member of the Navy football team, donning the #13 jersey. SEAL Team 8 and the current football team with honor Bourgeois at their Dec. 11 game vs. Army. Navy Football Brotherhood Inc. is among many organizations fundraising for Bourgeois’ wife and five children. At the time of publication, the organization has raised more than $178,000 for the family.

Those who knew Bourgeois said he was a skilled leader and a heroic war fighter, but also a man who prioritized his family amid the demands and deployments that come with being a Navy SEAL.

“You see people who somehow are able to find the time to do the things that are important. To live their values,” Huey said.

Bourgeois’ influence will not be forgotten by SEAL Team 8. His team will continue to carry on the legacy of protecting and serving the country their commanding officer loved.

“He was the very best. The very best of the kind of leader that we try to produce at the Naval Academy, and ultimately across the course of their career. We’re very proud of him. Very proud of him and his family,” Huey said.

BELOW: Sen. Bill Cassidy Delivers Speech on Senate Floor Honoring Fallen Navy SEAL Commander, Louisiana Native

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