VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – The Navy Special Operations Foundation supports Navy Special Operations and their families. Specially, those in the Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) and Navy diver community. The non-profit is based in Virginia Beach.
Executive Director Suzanna Fisher, Adam Fleck with the Board of Directors and Harry Basnight with Fundraising and Corporate Outreach joined Digital Host Sarah Goode in this Digital Desk conversation. Watch the full conversation in the video player on this page.
Fleck, Basnight, and Fisher are all a part of the Navy Special Operations community.
Fleck is a retired chief EOD technician and medically retired in 2018. Basnight is a retired chief EOD technician. After serving 21 years, he retired last year. Fisher’s husband is still active duty.
Navy EOD works autonomously within their own teams and attached to different special forces teams in the military, explains Fleck.
In November 2016, the community lost one of their own, EODCS Scotty Cooper Dayton. Fleck describes Dayton as a mentor and amazing human being. He was killed in Syria.
“That really rocked the community,” said Fleck.
They wanted to find a way to honor him. A community member had an idea and created the Scotty Dayton 5K.
“That was a huge and successful event for the community. It really brought people together,” said Fleck.
From there, they realized there was a huge need for a non-profit who understood the needs for the Navy Special Operations community. A year later, NSOF began. Fisher has been the director since it was founded.
“We are the sole organization that supports these two components exclusively. It is very important because we are that singular point of support,” said Fisher. “It’s very important to have that home and all encompassing organization that serves not just the operators themselves, but the family members, spouses, the children.”
NSOF offers a variety of resources, programs, and trips to the community, at all stages.
“Anything from the time they get into the community to transitioning out, we cover that broad spectrum with programs tailored to the unique aspects of the community,” said Fisher.
One of the programs they offer is urgent financial assistance.
“It helps us be able to finance these urgent requests that are needed, and we oftentimes can do that in less than 24 hours and that’s only done with how small the community is,” said Fisher.
The assistance could be for emergency travel expenses, meals, disaster relief funding and other needs.
NSOF also wants to bring people together for more than the bad times. At the first gala fundraising event, Fisher realized the need for the positive community gatherings after several people had the thought – how nice it was to come together for something other than a funeral.
They now host an annual gala. It is a fundraising event, and also an event everyone looks forward to each spring.
“It was just a reunion under good circumstances that allows us to come, and celebrate and really get back and connect with each other as a community, which is very tight knit,” said Basnight.
The gala and other fundraising events help NSOF fund youth programs and community outreach.
NSOF is also working on funding to complete the NSO Memorial.
Right now, the NSO Memorial on Little Creek Naval Base is in the works. They are just over halfway for the donations needed. $104,000 is needed to finish the project that started before COVID. Since then, the costs have risen to complete the memorial.
“That’s to dedicate to the lives of all of the Navy EOD and divers that have lost their lives in the line of combat,” said Basnight.
Fleck says it will give the community some place to go to and feel that togetherness again and point of pride. It will have the names of those lost and two statues to represent EOD and Navy Divers.
“It is critical for us to finish this because we committed to it, and the community needs it,” said Fleck.
Funds are needed for NSOF to finish the memorial, but also to continue to exist and offer assistance and support to the Navy Special Operations community.
Now in their sixth year, Fisher says they play an important role in giving families opportunities to be together.
“Every year, and we’ve expanded it. I believe we’re close to 1000 family members that we’ve been able to send or participate in the Great Wolf Lodge,” said Fisher.
On both the West Coast and East Coast, they send families to the resort for the weekend.
“We want to make sure that anyone about to leave for deployment or just coming back from deployment, its a great time for them to unwind and relax,” said Fisher.
Because of their jobs, Fisher says a trip which could otherwise be a high stress environment, can be relaxing. Being around teammates and friends can help put the operators at ease. It helps the entire family situation.
Navy Special Operations members are at risk for depression and suicide. Helping members reset through activities and getaways is something important to NSOF.
Coop’s Reset is one program they offer. It’s named in honor of late Navy EOD Warrior EODCS Steve “Coop” Cooper. They bring veterans and active duty members together in these retreats.
“The amount of healing that is taking place, people talking and connecting again. Especially the newer generations going up there and connecting with guys who’ve already been out a long time. And, sharing those stories, kind of grounds you,” said Fleck.
It is about filling that need for their teammates and community.
“That has been incredibly successful. And, that goes back to the family. Helping take care of the operator, you are helping take care of the family,” said Fleck.
Fisher, Fleck and Basnight share more about the foundation, the resources and the memorial throughout the Digital Desk conversation. To find out more information about NSOF, watch the full conversation in the video player on this page.
Visit their website at nsof.org to find out how to get involved, support, and donate.