Navy SEAL Foundation Evening of Tribute Honors the Heroes Among Us

There’s something magical that happens when you’re in a room full of Navy SEALs. You feel awed and humbled that mere men can achieve so much by their commitment to strength and sacrifice. It’s inspiring and causes you to want to do more in your own life in your own small way. Such was the case at the 5th Annual Houston Navy SEAL Foundation Evening of Tribute in early February. The event raises funds for the Navy SEAL Foundation (NSF) and is an opportunity to honor Navy SEALs and members of the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) community for their incredible commitment to protect America and the freedoms we enjoy daily.

NSF’s programs are designed to build strength and resilience, encourage optimal health, enhance opportunities for growth through education, and solidify a sense of community and belonging. Since its inception over 20 years ago, the foundation has funded over $140 million in programmatic assistance for the NSW community, and that support continues to grow. For example, with the expansion of the Warrior Fitness Program to the West Coast, a four-to-six-week program designed to help identify, treat and manage service-related injuries, including traumatic brain injury, PTSD and chronic pain. It’s these life-changing initiatives that make this evening of tribute, and the work of the foundation, so critically important.


This year’s event featured a keynote address from Vice Admiral Sean Pybus, retired Navy SEAL, and the honorable James A. Baker, III, the 61st U.S. Secretary of State and the 2023 Fire in the Gut Award recipient. It was co-chaired by Elizabeth and Gary Petersen and Ellen and John Rutherford, with Host Committee Chairs Nicole Hodge and retired Navy SEALWill Hodge, along with my wife, Christine, and me.

Baker has had a long and illustrious career in public service, and is the only person to serve as Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury and White House Chief of Staff two times — for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He led an unprecedented five presidential campaigns for Presidents Reagan, Bush and Gerald Ford, and in his appointed political positions was instrumental in some of the most significant developments for our country.

During his tenure as Secretary of State, the Cold War ended peacefully, the Soviet Union dissolved, and democracy spread across the globe. Baker was a key leader in developing the diplomatic groundwork for the unification of Germany, forging the unprecedented international coalition that forced Saddam Hussein’s troops from Kuwait and designing the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference.

At the event Baker was presented with the Fire in the Gut Award which is given to an outstanding individual who demonstratessuperior dedication, leadership and perseverance and has risen to the top of their profession or industry with a “never give up’ attitude.

It was our great pleasure at this year’s tribute event to hear from a man who has dedicated his entire adult life to service and sacrifice for our country, retired Vice Admiral and Navy SEAL Sean Pybus. During and since retiring from his distinguished military career, Pybus has been committed to serving the Special Operations community. He served as a naval officer and SEAL for 34 years and is the Chairman of the Board for The Special Operations Memorial Foundation (SOMF) in Tampa, FL, and a Board Officer of the Navy SEAL Foundation headquartered in Virginia Beach, VA.After retiring from the military, he became a consultant within the U.S. defense and security sectors and founded the Pybus Group.

It was inspiring to hear that Pybus is so passionate about the need for America to build up its natural resources, industrial bases and military capabilities to deter the Axis regimes, and to hear that he sees Texas as leading the way.

The event also featured Texas Congressmen Morgan Luttrell and Dan Crenshaw as our esteemed guests along with Commander Josh Wynn, a graduate of Naval Special Warfare’s assessment, selection and training course: Basic Underwater Demolition/ SEAL Class 233.

I am already looking forward to the 6th Annual Evening of Tribute planned for February 8, 2024, and the opportunity to honor these brave warriors.

The Navy SEAL Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt, national nonprofit organization created to provide immediate and ongoing resources to support the Navy Special Warfare community. The foundation provides programs that help improve health and welfare, build and enhance resiliency, empower and educate families and provide critical support during times of illness, injury, loss, and transition. To learn more, visit:

Shea Morenz is the CEO and President of Morenz Group and Bobcat Group where he and his team provide strategic guidance and expansionary capital to privately held companies with a core focus on long-term sustainability. Morenz played collegiate football and baseball at the University of Texas before being drafted by the New York Yankees in the first round of the 1995 Major League Baseball draft.