A short while back, wife and found ourselves glued to the TV and Netflix watching the PBS Special by Ken Burns, The Roosevelts; An Intimate History. Truly a fine piece of film making and a compelling look at Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt–their personal and political lives. Having recently completed a book featuring Navy SEAL Medal of Honor recipients Tommy Norris and Mike Thornton, I’m well read into the history of the Medal. Only fairly recently, in January of 2001, President Bill Clinton awarded the Medal of Honor to Theodore Roosevelt for his role in leading the Rough Riders up San Juan Hill. It was 103 years after the fact, but President Teddy is a recipient, just like Tommy and Mike. But there is another Roosevelt-SEAL Teams connection. Teddy’s great grandson, Theodore Roosevelt IV (often referred to as TR-4) graduated with Basic UDT/SEAL Class 36 and served with Underwater Demolition Team 11 in Vietnam.
I met TR-4 in the mid-1970s when we were both on a two-week Naval Reserve stint at the SEAL training facility at Roosevelt (how appropriate) Roads Naval Station, Puerto Rico. We were there for diving and parachuting requalifications. Our first meeting spoke to the Roosevelt character. I had arrived a day early but late in the day, checked into the barracks, and planned on sleeping late. At dawn, a guy I’d never seen before was shaking me awake.
“Want to go for a run?”
“Sure,” I sleepily answered, “give me a minute.”
After donning shorts, a T-shirt, and Nikes, I found him out front stretching. “Ted Roosevelt here,” he said, offering his hand.
I introduced myself and asked, “How far do you want to run?”
Without hesitation he said, “How about until one of us drops.”
So off we went. Having been a college runner and in good condition at the time, I’m proud to say I ran him into the ground. But he didn’t go easily. Over the course of our two weeks together, I learned much about Africa (Ted was at the State Department and served in Upper Volta), Harvard, politics, finance, shotguns, and North American birds. He knew a great deal about a lot of things. I couldn’t really tell him much about what I did as I was at the time under nominal corporate cover at CIA, but I think he guessed who I really worked for. Since then, Ted has been an investment banker and an informed conversationalist. In keeping with his side of the Roosevelt family, he’s a Republican. He’s also been kind enough to give me a blurb or two for my books.
During UDT/SEAL training, one of the more taxing evolutions is log physical training, or log PT. Boat crews of six to eight trainees must handle and toss about logs weighing up to 120 pounds. Lore has it that Ted had his own personal log, and it was a big one. Lore also has it that he was a strong trainee and carried the big stick, given him in jest by the instructor staff, with grace and good humor. But this is all hearsay. I didn’t come through training until Class 45.