by Ryan Labadens, U.S. Navy Public Affairs
The “Raymond J. Border Fitness Center” was officially dedicated in a ceremony onboard Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) Gulfport, Mississippi, Feb. 11, 2022.
After about a year long process, the Chief of Naval Operations approved NCBC Gulfport to name the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Fitness Center for Builder Chief Petty Officer Raymond J. Border, who was killed by an improvised explosive device in the Patika Province, Afghanistan, Oct. 19, 2011, while serving during Operation Enduring Freedom.
More than 400 people attended the ceremony, where the building’s name and a plaque dedicated to Border were unveiled at the entrance of the fitness center, and more than 1000 people viewed the ceremony as it was being streamed live on the Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport Facebook page.
This was the first building on base named after a Seabee who died in action while serving during Operation Enduring Freedom. The Seabees, which celebrate their 80th anniversary this year, were formed during the outset of the United States entry into World War II and serve as the construction arm of the U.S. Navy.
Border served 12 years before his death and had volunteered for an individual augmentee tour back to Afghanistan after deploying with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 74 the year before. He was the recipient of the Bronze Star with combat V, Purple Heart and the Combat Action Ribbon, which were just a few of the military awards and recognitions he received throughout his military career.
Border was remembered for his honor and dedication, and those who served with him noted how helpful he always was towards others, especially in regards to helping promote physical fitness. This is one of the main reasons the base fitness center was named in his memory.
The guest speaker for the dedication ceremony, U.S. Navy Capt. Richard Hayes, Force Maritime Headquarters Director, Naval Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), had served as the commanding officer of NMCB 74 at the time of Border’s death. Hayes noted Border’s dedication not only to physical fitness, but to his duty as a Navy Seabee.
“Ray took tremendous pride in being in great physical shape, which brings me to why we are here today – to pay tribute to this great Seabee. And I can’t think of a better way than by naming this fitness center after him,” said Hayes.
Local Mississippi government officials, such as Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes and Long Beach Mayor George L. Bass, were in attendance, as were representatives from U.S. Congressman Steven Palazzo’s office.
One of Palazzo’s representatives; Sawyer Walters, presented copies of the congressional record regarding Border, which had been read on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, to members of the Border family, and Mayor Hewes also presented the family with a mayoral proclamation.
“This proclamation for Chief Border really is kind of an overview of his life and career, but it also falls in the category of ‘Words Fail.’ While they sum up his career and history and connections, it is the understanding of folks who have served with men like Chief Border who really bring to fore days like today, where their impact, their influence, their example and their sacrifice are something to be reflected on and celebrated,” said Hewes, who in the proclamation declared the day of Feb. 11, 2022, as “BUC Raymond J. Border Day” in Gulfport, Mississippi.
At a reception after the ceremony, several organizations on base presented the Border family with mementoes to commemorate the occasion. The family expressed their appreciation and gratitude for the recognition bestowed upon their fallen loved one.
“[Raymond] was here for the whole 12 years [of his Seabee career], and he loved this base. He was in this gym all the time and really into physical fitness, so for them to name this after him, it’s just really hard to sum it up with any other words other than ‘amazing.’ We really appreciate what they’re doing here,” said Craig Border, Raymond Border’s father.
One of the hopes for naming the NCBC Gulfport fitness center after Border was for it to serve as a permanent reminder not only of the sacrifice made by one of the Navy’s fallen Seabees, but for the sacrifices all Seabees made while serving their country.
As the NCBC Gulfport Command Master Chief Michael Lopez stated during the dedication ceremony, “Our fallen matter. Never forget them, always honor them.”