Navy SEALs train off Coronado in 2014. Navy photo

Navy SEALs are noted for their courage under fire and their ability to pull off difficult missions.  That’s the reason why five years ago a number of retired SEALS felt they were qualified to rescue human trafficking victims and were recruited by Saved in America, a San Diego County-based group.

Saved in America became an instant media favorite, receiving regular coverage both nationally and locally. They use a variety of online platforms, including LinkedIn, to raise funds and report successes.

Just this week, Saved in America posted on its LinkedIn page an announcement about the retirement of one of its leaders — a former Navy SEAL. The post reported that “Master Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Kirby D. Horrell, the last active duty SEAL to have served in combat operations during the Vietnam War, retired during a ceremony at Coronado, Ca., Aug. 14.”

A screenshot of the LinkedIn post mentioning Kirby D. Horrell that appeared earlier this week.

A retired Navy SEAL who was formerly with Saved in America alerted me to the posting. He pointed out that Aug. 14 fell on a weekend and such retirement celebrations don’t take place on a weekends.  

When Brian O’Rourke, the media relations officer for Navy Region Southwest, was asked if there had been any retirement ceremonies last weekend honoring a Navy SEAL, he took a look at the LinkedIn post, which reposted an article announcing the retirement.

O’Rourke recognized the author of the story, noting that the writer actually was no longer working in San Diego. Then he found what was the original article about Horrell’s ceremony, which he said took place seven years ago.

“Here’s the same story in The Flagship, a newspaper that serves the Navy audience in Norfolk, Va., dated – AUG. 21, 2014,” O’Rourke wrote in an email. Check the link.”

There is an event this weekend involving the SEALs. It’s not a retirement ceremony, but the annual West Coast reunion that happens every third week of August. My SEAL source explains this includes a number of activities and ends with a very emotional event. 

The attending SEALs will  “swim out on Sunday morning to drop the ashes of brothers who have died the previous year.” The source believes the LinkedIn posting was done to garner interest in Kirby and raise funds.

Calls to Steven Giammichell, attorney of record for Saved in America, for an explanation of the reason for the post were not returned.

It’s not the first time the organization, which was founded by private investigator Joseph Travers, has sparked questions about using misleading information when promoting its operations and seeking to raise funds.

Last spring Saved in America, sent an email to local media in Las Vegas announcing a  “recovery operation for 11 missing children.” The press release also claimed the Saved in America team would be joined by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police in this “joint operation.”

When I called Las Vegas police to confirm that it was participating, the department said the claim was not true.

Las Vegas Police officer Misael Para said that someone from Saved in America had spoken to the traffic division, but Para said no partnerships were agreed to, contrary to the organization’s claims.

Saved in America has hosted several fundraisers in Las Vegas in the past, which included law enforcement and political leaders praising the work of Travers and his team.

JW August is a San Diego-based broadcast and digital journalist. He is also a member of the board of the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition.  

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