When Ed Crenshaw of Orlando, Florida graduated from high school in 1968, the Vietnam War was raging. He considered going to college, but instead enlisted in the U.S. Navy.
He signed up in August at age 17, turned 18 in November, married his sweetheart in February and left 10 days later for boot camp. Then it was off to Jacksonville for 23 weeks of aviation electrician training.
“My first choice had been construction battalion,” he said. “My intention was to be a naval electrician, so I put in for that in 1969. I didn’t get my first choice, but aviation electrician was my second choice.”
Ed had hoped his enlistment would keep him out of Vietnam, but he ended up serving three tours of duty there before being discharged. On his first night in Da Nang, a mortar attack occurred. It was a wakeup call for a rookie sailor. Welcome to Vietnam.
Flight Deck Danger
In his first tour of duty, Ed was assigned to an aircraft carrier – the USS Ranger – off the coast of Vietnam. He spent his second and third tours on the USS Enterprise. Learning he could earn an extra $100 a month, he volunteered for trouble shooting duty on the flight deck.
“We were flying missions 16 to 18 hours a day,” he said. “I didn’t know it at the time, but working on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.”
In between tours, Ed was stationed on Whidbey Island north of Seattle, Washington. He was honorably discharged in 1973. After returning to Orlando from the service, he entered the reserve program with a construction battalion outfit there.
He also used his G.I. Bill to earn a paralegal degree from Valencia Community College and a criminal justice degree from Columbia College. Eventually he became an investigator with the Orlando Utilities Commission and then a manager.
During a six-month break from the Commission, he served with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department as a court deputy.
Launching a Local Chapter
In 1999, Ed retired and moved to Young Harris, Georgia. That’s where his chapter of the Navy Seabee Veterans of America (NSVA) is located.
Ed had joined the national organization in the 1980s and was due to become president of the state chapter when he left Florida.
“We went a long time without having an Island here in Young Harris,” Ed said. “But in 2014 a couple of other Seabees and I started an Island. We put an ad in the paper for a meeting we were having, and we got 12 new members right away.”
Seabee chapters are called islands. This goes back to World War II. Due to operational security, the Seabees were not allowed to disclose their locations, so when corresponding they would list their location as Island X. When the SVA was established, it was decided to call the chapters Islands.
Attendance Doubles for Military Ball
Ed’s Island X-3 chapter held its 6th annual Military Ball for all branch services and civilians in March 2021 at the Ridges Resort in Young Harris, Georgia. The main speaker was retired Commander Mike Streckert.
“Locally we don’t have enough Seabees for a full military function, so we invited all military branches and veterans and opened it up to civilians,” Ed said.
“We had a very good turnout. A total of 143 people signed up and all but three came. Last year we only had 65 because that’s when COVID was really starting to ramp up.
“An ROTC group from a local Christian high school presented the colors for us. The St. Andrews pipe and drum corps played Amazing Grace and all the military branch songs. It was a great time with good fellowship.”
4Patriots Donates Products for Event
4Patriots donated a number of items for door prizes and the silent auction. Including a Patriot Power Cell, HaloXT flashlight, 72-Hour Survival Food Kit, Firebolt Waterproof Tactical Arc Lighter & Flashlight, and First Aid Kit.
“4Patriots products were very well received and we made over $2,000 from our auctions,” Ed said. “They were most appreciated. If it weren’t for the people and organizations who donate, we’d be in the hole.
“The money allowed us to comp the tickets and food for the high school kids and their leaders, as well as the bagpipers.
“The rest will go into scholarships for local kids, including trade schools which keeps with the Seabee tradition. We help vets and kids, and contribute to civic projects. We help repair plumbing, build wheelchair ramps and do general lawn maintenance here as a thank you to the city for allowing us to use a building for our meetings.”
Crenshaw Is Island Commander
Ed said his local chapter is up to about 30 members now. “Which is remarkable because this is a small mountain town. In March we celebrated the 79th anniversary of the Seabees and the 75th anniversary of the veterans organization.
The next Military Ball fundraiser will be held March 5, 2022.
“As Commander of the Island, “I do a little bit of everything. I conduct the monthly meetings, write and send the emails, stay on top of everything, get speakers to come in, and turn in the required information to the national organization.”
Even though “Seabee” is spelled S-E-A-B-E-E, the name actually comes from the letters C and B, which stand for construction battalions.
Their motto is: “With compassion for others. We Build – We Fight for Peace and Freedom.” More than 325,000 men served in the Seabees during World War II.
An inscription on the Navy Seabee Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery sums up what the Seabees have done – and continue to do – for America. It reads: “With willing hearts and skillful hands, the difficult we do at once. The impossible takes a bit longer.”