Navy Seabee Foundation

The Best of the Best


by Governor Phil Bryant

Governor of Mississippi
Seabee Diamond Anniversary Ambassador

There are many reasons I’m honored to be taking part in the Seabees’ Diamond Anniversary celebrations. Reason number one:  I am the proud son of a U.S. Navy Seabee.

My dad, Dewey Charles Bryant, was just 17 years old when he enlisted in the Navy during World War II, spurred to action by the attack on Pearl Harbor and the harrowing newsreel footage of the Bataan Death March. The fact that this young man from Mississippi ended up in the Seabees changed his life, and profoundly influenced me, my mother and my two older brothers. I am fairly certain I would not be the Governor of Mississippi today if not for what my father learned from the Seabees, and how those lessons helped shape me.

Like many men of his generation, my dad didn’t talk much about what he lived through in the war. There wasn’t a lot of sharing, and there certainly was no complaining.  When he came home from war, he went to work and raised his family. Dewey Bryant was a country boy who came out of the woods of Sullivan’s Hollow, Mississippi, to help save the world from evil. The first new pair of shoes he ever owned the U.S. Navy bought for him.

A postcard Dewey sent to his family from Great Lakes, Illinois.

After joining the Navy, my dad went to Illinois for training, then shipped off to the Marshall Islands.  When he did share stories, it was clear it was very tough going in the South Pacific. The conditions were brutal, from the extreme heat to the torrential rain. For the rest of his life, my dad suffered from problems with his feet, which had stayed wet for so long in the marshes. There’s a medical term for it, but the guys just called it “jungle rot.” Again, he never complained. He’d just come home from working on trucks all day and soak his feet in the bathtub, while my mother tried to explain what he was going through.

Dewey Charles Bryant on the left.

Governor Bryant’s father, Dewey, on the right.

The Governor’s father driving a Navy Jeep.

One of the bulldozers Dewey operated during his service.

The work my father found back home in Mississippi was a direct result of having been a Seabee. He was a diesel mechanic and heavy equipment operator, and used those skills to become shop foreman for the Mack Truck Company. Along with learning a trade, my father learned vital life lessons from the Seabees. With a “can do” attitude, he never hesitated to take on a challenge, never gave up, and expected nothing less from his three sons. He lived that old Seabees’ saying:  “With willing hearts and skillful hands, the difficult we do at once. The impossible takes a bit longer.” After all my dad had seen and done, he remained in the U.S. Navy Reserves, prepared to again leave home and go fight whenever and wherever duty and his country called.

The Seabees’ influence on my life extends from my family to the state I love and am privileged to lead. Gulfport, Mississippi, is home to the 1,100 acre Naval Construction Battalion Center and Seabee Heritage Center. Gulfport has been dubbed Seabee Town, USA, and it’s a great source of pride for all of us here in The Magnolia State. It is part of the fabric of Mississippi. We know that every Seabee who has passed through there has helped carry the story of our state and the base.

Now, with this Diamond Anniversary, it is time for all of us who know and love the Seabees to share the story far and wide, and for our corporate partners to also step up, support the CEC/Seabee Historical Foundation, and show the world the Seabees. We need to shine a light on the remarkable humanitarian work being done by these men and women — work that was very close to home here, as Seabees helped with rebuilding after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. I have seen firsthand that these service members are the best of the best.

The Seabees are key to the future success of our country, as they promote the all-important STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, and stand at the ready when war threatens and disaster strikes. They are also a link to our nation’s past. One of the few times my dad really opened up about his experiences was when my daughter — his beloved granddaughter — was doing a high school project and researching World War II, and turned to him for recollections. His personal story lives on thanks, in part, to that experience. Together, we can make sure the entire Seabee story continues to be told.

My father was one of the most determined men I’ve ever known. To this day, my brothers and I remember how he taught us that if you started a task, no matter how big or small, you finished it — and you did the very best job you possibly could. That was instilled in him by the Seabees, and he carried it with him.  We were fortunate enough to be able to learn that lesson, and it has served the three of us very well in our lives.

I often think of my father, and it means the world to me to be a Seabee’s son.  When he passed away, we made sure to put on his headstone that he served in the United States Navy. It was something he was so very proud of.

  1. A great story. I am a Mississippi girl who found her Seabee 49 years ago in Glulfport,Ms. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. We have raised a family and now are proud grandparents. He is envolved in our community and still has that ” can do ” spirit. We make our home in Butler, Pa.

  2. Just perhaps…gonna try a memory anyway as I was a Seabee from 1951 to
    retirement in 1971, having served in many battalions and instructor duty
    in Disaster Recovery and technical training at all 3 of the Seabee bases.
    I recall the nick-name…’TINY-BRYANT’ and the troop that packed that
    ‘handle’ was not small and frail by any means…yeah, like I said, just

  3. Above posting…

  4. I would really like to hear back on this memory as it is 50 or more
    years ago!

  5. What a nice Tribute to Gov. Phil Bryant

    Yes The Seabees were always there And did there job I too give the Seabees credit

    for my training to love everyone . I am so proud of my officers and Mates.

    I enjoyed the 75th anniversary in honoring Admiral Ben Morell,

    I am 93 & in good heath, 13 Months in Europe, & 5 months on Okinawa with the 97th NCB & 1081 CBD.

    • Congratulations on being 93 but even more so on being a SEABEE. Thanks for your service sir.

      EO-2 ’66-’70

  6. I also had a father that was a Sea Bee. I joined the local reserve unit and finally became a Sea Bee when I joined the unit in Adak, Alaska. My Farther was in WW 2 and was called back during the Korean war. I was in school and the draft was getting close and knew that I did not want to end up in the Army, sleeping on the ground. Did that in Boy Scouts,
    My Father, J.R. (Hap) Mathias was the Captial of the reserve unit, so he got to sign off on my active duty request.

  7. As a seabee with MCB one, I had the honor all serving from 1952 to 1956 with some of the greatest young men. I am also proud of my oldest granddaughter Emily having completed her first year at Ole Miss. a graduate of Liberty high in Bakersfield Ca. Can do will do done.

  8. The legacy of the Seabees will continue to expand. Memories fade as we age but our life story can be retold by those that know us.
    I am retired from the Seabees. The best years I have known.

    Stories like the gouvenors Dad will inspire. The next generation has experienced the dark days of war. Out of that experience will come many new stories to be told.

    My own Father is buried in Mississippi. A WW 2 vet. Such a man as he seems to be never seen never heard and never looked for, never boastful but always humble.

    Continued success Gov. Phil Bryant.

  9. When I joined MCB 11 in 1958 I had to wait Two months until I could join the Battalion in Guam . I had an older brother that was a Seabee which was the reason for me being selected to be one also. During my time in MCB 11 I was fortunate to meet many older Seabees that had served in WW2 along with our Captain , Cmdr. Liberty. I can honestly say that it was a life changing experience for me. I met many guys willing to share their knowledge and offer to keep me on the right path . I would do it again in a heartbeat and I encourage young people to do the same. I was bale to attend the re- commissioning of MCB11 a few years ago in Gulfport and was pleased to see the men and women that are keep the traditions of Our Seabees alive and strong. Looking back , three years plus was not enough but I do cherish the memories. Seabees can do like they have always done . hoorah !

  10. Great story, your dad was a Seabee to the core. I saw on the news the trouble you’re having from the company supplying the chemical needed to kill the worst of the worse. I’d guess you pay a fortune for it and the PC crowd think it is far too cruel for these heartless beasts that have no remorse or compassion for anyone. Let me tell you how a ‘Bee’ would ‘git er done for free. Put a little gas generator in the chamber with the Dirtbag, start it up and come back after dinner …. M.C …. Mission complete. I know this cuz I’m an old Bee and I bet your dad would tell you the same thing. God bless his soul Governor and yours too in trying to deal with too many officials that never served a day in the Military. I too, spent time at Gulfport, great people, true Americans! ‘
    Ole Jake’ … Out

  11. Hats off to your dad and your state. Mississippi has always honored the SEABEES and the SEABEES are there for your constituents.

  12. Governor Bryant,
    Thank you for your public service and the wonderful story of your father.
    My Dad also joined the Navy at 17, went to Great Lakes for training, then the 67th Seabees where he also served in the Marshal Islands among other “hell holes”. He also joined the Reserves and served during Korea. My Dad also did not talk about his war past, worked hard, never complained and did the best he could for his family. I too learned from my father.
    I am in my 5th term as a local elected official. I think we Sons of Seabees realize that we all need to do all we can to preserve what the Seabees suffered and died for. God Bless Joe Cronin

  13. I am soo greatiful to the Seabeas for my training and scholling that I received in Clla electricans school in Port Huenme Ca. in 1964. I would later be stationed first in Adak, Alaska. Then with MCB9 in Denag, Vietnam. After being dicharged I would later become an electrican with US Postal Service.and later because of my schooling become an electronic technician. I can not put into words how proud I was to be a seabee.

  14. A great story of your father and the WW2 Seabees. My father was a journeyman electrician when he enlisted in the Seabees during the War. He served with the 45th battalion in the Aleutian islands during the war. He met my mother while on leave in CA. He was back from the Aleutians, and training in a beach-master unit for the invasion of Japan when the war ended. He joined the reserves, and served until he retired in 1968. He had a farm and an electrical contracting company. Due to his example I joined the Seabees and retired from MCB26 after 26 years total time. All of us with Seabee fathers have had a good example for living life.