HARLINGEN — Former U.S. Navy SEAL officer Clint Bruce is quick to point out that receiving an award can be dangerous if you think it’s about you and not the people and efforts it represents.
Bruce was presented with the Iwo Jima Leadership Award on Friday night at Marine Military Academy’s annual Gen. H.M. Smith Foundation Dinner.
The award is presented to people in honor of the bravery, leadership and hope the Iwo Jima Monument represents, said a statement from MMA. The academy is the location of the Iwo Jima Monument.
The statue depicts six servicemen — five Marines and a Navy corpsman — raising a U.S. flag on the Pacific island of Iwo Jima during World War II. SEAL stands for Sea, Air and Land.
“The Marine Military Academy annually recognizes an extraordinary individual and presents him or her with the Iwo Jima Leadership Award,” said the MMA statement. “This individual must epitomize the core values of the U.S. Marine Corps — honor, courage and commitment.”
Previous recipients of this award include former Secretary of State George P. Schultz, former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Gov. Rick Perry, former NFL star Vince Papale and state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville.
Bruce, 40, is a 1997 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. He’s one of the most decorated athletes in the academy’s history, said the statement. Out of more than 200 people with whom he began SEAL training, only 12 actually finished. He was involved in multiple deployments in the Pacific and Middle East before leaving the military in 2004.
He founded Dallas-based Trident Response Group in 2005 to provide overseas security and other services. He is also the founder of Carry the Load, a nonprofit organization that emphasizes the importance of Memorial Day.
Bruce says the award he received Friday night represents all those activities and the people who were part of them. He accepted the award on their behalf.
“I can point to 10 names behind every one of those efforts that I am fortunate enough to represent, the Naval Academy Football Team that I was blessed to be a part of, the SEAL teams obviously,” he said. “There’s lots of men and women in SEALs whose names no one will ever know, and they want it that way.”
He also said this particular award is particularly challenging because it’s a “legacy” award.
“The name that comes before the award always means a lot to me,” he said. “So certainly, you know, the Iwo Jima Award and H.M. Smith, ‘Howlin’ Mad’ Smith, those are pretty high names in our world. So it’s a very humbling award to get.”
Smith was a Marine Corps general who played a key role in preparing the Marine Corps for its action during World War II, including the development of amphibious warfare. He was also a supporter of MMA.