The only living member of the original Navy SEAL team celebrated his 94th birthday Thursday.
In 1943, Bill Dawson was part of the very first team of Naval Combat Demolition Units, or more commonly known as “frogmen.” They eventually evolved into the modern-day Navy SEALs.
Dawson was just 17 when he joined the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II and he remained there until the Japanese surrendered in 1945.
He wrote a book, "Before They Were SEALs They Were Frogs," to chronicle his unique experiences in the force.
“Knowing today what I helped start developed into what it is today. It’s one of the greatest outfits in the world,” Dawson said.
After returning home from the war, Dawson joined the D.C. Fire Department, where he served for more than 20 years.
Dawson was surrounded by friends and family, including his granddaughter and great granddaughter when he celebrated his 94th birthday on Thursday.
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“He would talk to you for hours about all of the travels he did, all of the experience he gained and it just made him really proud of his service,” Dawson’s granddaughter Sherrie Soos said.
His colleagues from the fire department were also there to celebrate.
“He’s part of that brotherhood in the fire department for one,” said Greg Turnell, who helps Dawson get around. “He’s done a lot for our country and our community.”
Dawson’s courageous work isn’t the only inspiring thing about him, Turnell said.
“The fact that he’s collected a pension for 45 years — that's even more inspiring,” Turnell joked.