Navy SEAL Foundation Evening of Tribute Reminds Us What Sacrifice and Bravery Are All About

If you want to be inspired, talk to a Navy SEAL, and in just a few minutes you’ll get a glimpse of the character, bravery and unwavering commitment that drives him. If you want to be utterly awestruck, gather in a room full of Navy SEALs, and you’ll feel the electricity in the air that emanates from the strength, talent and compassion that drives them to change the world. That’s how I felt at the 6th Annual Houston Navy SEAL Foundation Evening of Tribute in early February. My wife Christine and I were honored once again to co-host this very special night along with Robyn and Embry Canterbury, Nicole and Will Hodge, and Chairs Elizabeth and Gary Petersen, and Ellen and John Rutherford. The event raises funds for the Navy SEAL Foundation (NSF) and provides a platform to honor Navy SEALs and members of the Naval Special Warfare community for their dedication to protect our great country and the freedoms that define America.

The Navy SEAL Foundation was founded more than 20 years ago to provide critical support for the warriors, veterans and families of the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) community — the most elite fighting force in the world. NSW is composed of Navy SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen, as well as support personnel, that operate beyond the reach of conventional forces, conducting strategic reconnaissance, direct action, hostage rescue and many other specialized missions. Following the legacy of the Underwater Demolition Teams of WWII, they have always been the true tip of the spear, executing some of the highest risk operations in history, most of which aren’t even known by the public due to their stealth nature. The Foundation offers more than 30 essential programs under five Pillars of Support —Strength, Resilience, Health, Education and Community for these heroic warriors and their families.

This year’s Evening of Tribute honored the Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen family and featured many speakers, including former Secretary of Commerce Don Evans, Quintana Resource Holdings CEO Corbin Robertson, Jr., Gold Star spouse Megan Ernst, USN (Ret.) SEAL Morgan Luttrell and keynote speaker Bill King, USN (Ret) SEAL and former NSW Force Master Chief Board Advisor, Navy SEAL Foundation.

Hugh Roy Cullen was an American industrialist and philanthropist who is considered one of the most important figures in Texas history and the oil boom era, having struck oil in the state in 1928. The generous charitable contributions from Cullen and his wife, Lillie Cranz Cullen, through his namesake foundation continue to benefit educational institutions and worthy causes. Cullen is the grandfather of the Evening of Tribute’s honoree Corbin Robertson, Jr. who has carried on this tradition of giving by leveraging his professional success to support those in need, especially our military heroes.

Donald L. Evans was appointed as the 34th U.S. Secretary of Commerce in 2001 by President George W. Bush and served until 2005. Evans worked closely with President Bush on a platform to encourage job creation with strategies that included reducing taxes, expanding markets for American goods and services, and promoting a more level playing field internally. He was a trusted friend and advisor to President Bush for more than four decades, including helping lead his successful Texas gubernatorial campaigns in 1994 and 1998 and serving as chairman of the 2000 Bush-Cheney Presidential Campaign. Currently, Evans serves as Chairman of the George W. Bush Foundation, as Chairman of the Permian Strategic Partnership, and as Senior Advisor at Energy Capital Partners.

Keynote speaker Bill King most recently served as the 9th Force Master Chief of Naval Special Warfare at Naval Special Warfare Command (WARCOM), headquarters for NSW, from August 2018 to August 2022. His distinguished military career spans more than three decades including serving with SEAL Team One, eight deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and numerous awards including the Legion of Merit, six Bronze Stars (five with Valor), the Meritorious Service Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, one Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, two Combat Action Ribbons (OIF/OEF), and other unit and campaign awards.

It’s heroes like Bill King and the many Navy SEALs present at this year’s Evening of Tribute that put into perspective what it takes to fight for our country to ensure the many freedoms we enjoy. It’s sometimes easy to become complacent about the things we take for granted in this great country of ours. But the sacrifice of the men and women in our military, and especially its elite service members, remind us that freedom isn’t guaranteed and must be ever protected and defended. I’m sincerely humbled to be part of this inspiring evening to honor them, and I’m already looking forward to the 7th Annual Houston Evening of Tribute on February 6, 2025, at the Post Oak Hotel.

To learn more about the Navy SEAL Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt, national nonprofit organization, 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.