New exhibit opens at Seabee Museum

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, players of the Homs-based al-Wathbah club react after two mortars exploded next to a soccer stadium in central Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013. Two mortars exploded killing one player and injuring several, Syria's state-run news agency said. (AP Photo/SANA)

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, players of the Homs-based al-Wathbah club react after two mortars exploded next to a soccer stadium in central Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013. Two mortars exploded killing one player and injuring several, Syria's state-run news agency said. (AP Photo/SANA)

Kyle McGaha makes a Sailor's Valentine at the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum at Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, during the opening of a new exhibit, 'It Takes a Family to Deploy a Seabee,' earlier this month. Traditional Sailor's Valentines are boxes or cards decorated with small pieces of colored material such as glass, tiles or shells. The museum provided all materials for the valentines.

Photo by Chuck Kirman / Ventura County Star

Kyle McGaha makes a Sailor's Valentine at the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum at Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, during the opening of a new exhibit, "It Takes a Family to Deploy a Seabee," earlier this month. Traditional Sailor's Valentines are boxes or cards decorated with small pieces of colored material such as glass, tiles or shells. The museum provided all materials for the valentines.

The U.S. Navy Seabee Museum at Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) Port Hueneme unveiled its newest exhibit Saturday, Feb. 9.

“It Takes a Family to Deploy a Seabee” greets visitors with a mural and artifacts depicting the international journey of the Navy’s construction battalions.

Timed close to Valentine’s Day, the opening offered guests the opportunity to create a “Sailor’s Valentine” at arts and craft tables set up at the entrance to the museum. Adults and children alike were encouraged to design a heartfelt greeting to share with a loved one.

“The idea of a ‘Sailor’s Valentine’ comes from the boxes that 19th century sailors would make for their families,” said Museum Director Lara Godbille. “They’d be at sea for so long, traveling to so many different countries, that they would collect artifacts from each place they’d visit, put them in a box, and present them to their family upon their return.”

Some artifacts from more recent years are on display as part of the exhibit. Personal collections from some of Ventura County’s Seabees include a bread dough doll from Quito, Equador; a sake set from Japan; a bracelet made from bone on Mortai Island; a yo-yo from Guam; and V-Mail — Victory Mail — sent from a Seabee to his family during World War II.

The floor-to-ceiling mural ties the collection together.

Artist Kira Schaaf, who is also the wife of a Seabee, chose to approach the exhibit’s featured mural by drawing from personal experience. The black and white image depicts a Delta commercial aircraft parked on the runway of a Point Mugu airstrip as Seabees exit the plane to the sight of family members eagerly awaiting a hug and kiss.

“This is a typical scene here on the base,” said Godbille. “The Seabees are usually flown into Point Mugu and bused back here. All the while family members have lined the borders of the runway and streets with signs welcoming back their loved one.”

Some of those signs are also on display as part of the exhibit, all donations from families stationed at NBVC.

Bob Quinn, a Seabee veteran who served during the Vietnam War, recalled the progress made in transportation since he enlisted in 1961.

“We used to go by ship,” he recalled. “It would take us two weeks to get to our destination, then 11 months in country, then two weeks to come back. It wasn’t until Vietnam was in full force that they started taking bigger groups by plane.”

Seabee deployments today are approximately six months, Quinn noted.

He also shared memories of the families that waited on the flightline.

“There isn’t really a way to describe it,” he said. “You are gone for so long and sometimes these guys are coming back to meet their babies for the first time.”

Quinn himself met his daughter for the first time on the flightline when she was 6 months old.

Sponsored by the Bee Club, which is made up of about 100 spouses of officers stationed at NBVC, “It Takes a Family to Deploy a Seabee” is the first permanent exhibit of 2013. A World War II gallery is set to open this summer.

“We’ve been fighting an uphill battle for visitation and funding,” Godbille said. “People just don’t know we are here. But we’ve worked our way to now having a third of our galleries about 4,000 square feet — open to the public.”

— This article and accompanying photos are reprinted in The Lighthouse courtesy of the Ventura County Star.

© 2013 Ventura County Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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CAPT. LARRY VASQUEZ

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An estimated crowd of over 200 private industry professionals gathered at Wednesday’s Industry Forum at the Embassy Suites in Oxnard to hear from high-ranking civilian and military personnel from Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), Port Hueneme Division about doing business with the Navy.

Thursday, April 24, 2014
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