Did the Florida governor just compare schoolchildren to Navy SEALs?


Florida man strikes again.

This time, it’s governor Ron DeSantis, who, in an Aug. 12 briefing, quotes a local teacher comparing the mission of returning students to school in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic with the 2011 Navy SEAL operation that killed 9/11 orchestrator Osama bin Laden.

“A number of school districts that launched in-person instruction this week, and many more are planning to open up over the next few weeks, Martin County Superintendant Lori Gaylord told me today that she viewed opening her schools as akin to a Navy SEAL operation.”

Though it is unclear if he is quoting Gaylord or performing the contrast of is his own volition, DeSantis continues in this effort to equate elementary students with battle-tested SEALs.

“Just as the SEALs surmounted obstacles to bring Osama bin Laden to justice, so too would the Martin County school system find a way to provide parents a meaningful choice of in-person instruction or continued distance learning, all in, all the time.”

Twitter made quick work of dissecting this argument.

Stan Van Gundy, former NBA Head Coach for the Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic and Miami Heat, weighed in, saying that he believed DeSantis’ analogy may be apt, but the sentiment is all wrong.

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People are trashing Governor DeSantis for comparing opening schools to a Navy Seal operation but I think his analogy is spot on. The kids and teachers are the Navy Seals and we are sending them into a very dangerous situation. You know who assumes no risk? Ron DeSantis. https://t.co/5PNcohxanu

— Stan Van Gundy (@realStanVG) August 13, 2020

“What is going on?” one user wrote. “These are primary school teachers and children, not a military combat unit. There should not be life and health threatening risks associated with teaching at or attending a grade school. This is so warped.”

And if suggesting that teachers and young children have the stamina to withstand BUD/S and go on to carry out some of the military’s most dangerous operations doesn’t seem tone deaf, DeSantis’ particular familiarity with the Navy SEALs certainly does.

Prior to his election to Florida’s highest office, DeSantis served in the Navy as a JAG prosecutor. In particular, during the Iraq War surge, “DeSantis served as a senior legal adviser to the SEAL who commanded Special Operations Task Force-West in Fallujah, Navy Capt. Dane Thorleifson,” according to a Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times report.

Retired Navy SEAL admiral William McRaven, the architect of the bin Laden raid who later served as chancellor of the University of Texas system, declined to comment when contacted by Military Times.

Florida continues to have high numbers of COVID-19 in certain areas, with its overall case count since the outbreak at 550,000 infected with nearly 9,000 deaths at the time of this writing.

Martin County, the municipality DeSantis mentioned, opened schools just this week, but has already faced one COVID-19 incident.

“One day after the School District reopened for in-person learning, one class at SeaWind Elementary School was sent home Wednesday after a student exhibited symptoms commonly associated with COVID-19, district officials confirmed,” TCPalm reported.

Nine students in that class will now spend 14 days in quarantine, remote learning.


Sarah Sicard is the Digital Editor of Military Times. She previously served as Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, Defense News, Fast Company, Business Insider and AdWeek.

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