In late 2021 Lion David Lynn took his 96-year-old stepfather to visit the west coast site for the United States’ World War II Submarine Memorial. Located at Naval Weapons Station in Seal Beach, the memorial pays tribute to the more than 3,000 submarine soldiers who lost their lives during World War II.

Lion kneels by war memorialLynn’s stepfather is a veteran and lost a friend who worked on one of the submarines in WWII.

However, when they arrived, Lynn was dismayed at what he saw. “It was just a mess,” he says. “It took us a long time to just find the name.” Exposure to the elements and neglect had greatly reduced the visibility of the names.

After some searching, his stepfather found his fallen friend’s name. They said a prayer for him and left, but the trip had sparked something in Lynn. “I got this crazy idea,” he says.

Lynn approached Kevin Young, a Seal Beach Lion and 27-year veteran of the United States Navy, to see if he thought it could be a Lions project. Young thought it was a great idea. “I dealt with submarines quite a bit during my career,” he says. “I was really proud to take this on as a Seal Beach project.”

Another Seal Beach Lions ProjectAs the largest club in North America, Seal Beach Lions asks its members to bring ideas for projects to the board. “We’re always open to new events,” says club President Scott Weir. Even though they have several signature events each year, part of what keeps the 400-plus member club going strong is its insistence that members bring their passions to the table. “It’s one of the things I asked the Lions when I became president,” says Weir. “Find your passion, find something that you like to do. We’ll help you do it.”

Lynn and Young had found their passion in the submarine war memorial. “I took me a little while to get everything together in my own mind and to think about what I wanted to do and what we needed to do,” says Lynn. Then he started making phone calls.

They presented their idea to the board and received a resounding, “Yes.”

Seal beach Lions pose with restored war memorial“It was overwhelming, just the support we got on this,” says Young.

It took several months and thousands of man-hours to get the project completed. Lynn understands that volunteering with a dedicated club like Seal Beach comes with a certain amount of commitment. For a project like this, where he is a lead and there is a lot to do, there can be hours spent away from his family each week. “But with that comes the rewards,” he says. “Just knowing you’ve accomplished something like this.”

The memorial has been transformed in the year since Lynn first visited with his stepfather. The names that had been so hard to make out before are now crystal clear. Strangers approach when they see Lynn there working, and they thank him for what he and the Lions have done.

“The submarine community is rather known for being invisible,” says Dr. Darin Detwiler, a submarine veteran and one of the leads on the restoration project. “To have a submarine memorial on the west coast that is so visible and open to the public enables the submarine veteran community to have a place to recognize not only the service of others, but the sacrifices that our fellow veterans have made.”

Detwiler had just moved to Seal Beach when he heard about the project. “There was an opportunity to come and listen to a new member information session (for Seal Beach Lions). And I didn’t know much about what was going on, but one of the first things they were talking about was the various projects they were working on and about how they’re looking to start this submarine war memorial restoration project. I was sold at that moment.”

Detwiler has seen WWII veterans get rides from far away to visit the site. They take a knee to pay their respects and often need help getting up. But it makes Detwiler feel like what he has done has meaning for people. Others who have lived in Seal Beach their whole life say they never knew it was here before, but now come by often because it’s so beautiful.

Maintaining the Submarine Memorial will be an ongoing project for the Seal Beach Lions. Every six months, before Memorial Day and Veterans Day, Young and Lynn visit the site and clean it up. “It’s become our forever project,” says Lynn. “We’ll be here to keep it going as long as we can.”

“It’s a no-brainer,” says Detwiler, about the work he puts in. “I grin from ear to ear when I’m working on this project.”