(From left) Brian Day, Taylor Smith, Caelan Connors and James "Jimmy" Hintzke, CEO of Valhalla’s Forge LLC, display a custom-made wooden and metal replica of the Seal of the President of the United States
Within the small but industrious confines of the modest two-story workshop of Valhalla’s Forge LLC in Virginia Beach, Virginia, a team of artisans meticulously created several tokens of appreciation for President Donald Trump and Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Britt K. Slabinski, a retired U.S. Navy SEAL.
The project took the group about a month to complete with near round-the-clock preparation said James “Jimmy” Hintzke, the Valhalla’s Forge chief executive officer and fellow retired U.S. Navy SEAL.
“Words really can’t describe how proud I am of my team,” Hintzke said. “We listened to one another’s suggestions, agreed on a course of action and completed this noble undertaking. This entire project is about honoring those who have given the ultimate sacrifice.”
The 24-inch by 24-inch wooden and metal presidential seal replica that was presented to Mr. Trump has an extraordinary connection to U.S. Naval Special Warfare (NSW) families and U.S. Armed Forces as a whole.
Hintzke said that every individual star, large and small, on the face of the presidential seal encompasses a sliver of physical, historical artifacts including pieces of oak and nails from the USS Constitution, the U.S. Navy’s oldest commissioned ship and an artifact from the World War I Battle of Belleau Wood, fragments from the original Basic Underwater and Demolition School obstacle course and a particle from the space shuttle launch pad.
The unique replica also contains personal items and keepsakes donated by Gold Star NSW families from SEALS who have lost their lives since the beginning of the Global War on Terror and other historic occasions.
“For example, the fourth large star [from top-center] contains an artifact belonging to Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Danny Dietz, who died during Operation Red Wings,” Hintze said. “The 13th large star going clockwise to the right contains an artifact belonging to Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Jason Workman, who died on the Extortion 17 flight and the 23rd star contains sand from the area designated as Omaha Beach during the Allied landing at Normandy of World War II.”
Hintzke said that he had to take a step back once or twice during the project because of his emotional attachment.
“They are my brothers,” he said. “I got a little choked-up handling and seeing memorabilia from guys I personally know and love that have been killed defending this great nation. However, the word ‘quit’ isn’t in a SEAL’s vocabulary. So, I kept going because they would do the same damn thing for me if the situation were turned around.”
In addition to the gift for the President, Slabinski, the nation’s most recent Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, received a custom wooden gun-box containing an 18th-century style flintlock pistol. It symbolizes his deep connection to the NSW community, said Taylor Smith, an electrical and computer engineering major at Old Dominion University and one of few who directly worked on the entire project.
“It’s really unbelievable that I’m going to be a part of American history,” Taylor said. “The very idea (that) someone [Slabinski] with so much valor and courage will receive something I made is astounding, to say the least."
Slabinski received the Medal of Honor for his actions during Operation Anaconda, or what has become known as the Battle of Roberts Ridge.
He is credited with leading an element of special operations members on a mission to rescue Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Neil Roberts from a 10,000-foot snow-covered mountaintop on March 4, 2002.
“There’s a lot to say about this piece,” Smith said. "It’s entirely made from wood indigenous to Afghanistan and includes steel from the original World Trade Center, sand from World War II’s Omaha Beach and a fragment of the Berlin Wall. I’m proud of the trust and flexibility my mentor, (Jimmy) Hintzke allowed me to have in creating such an important piece of history.”
The project would not have been possible if not for the families and friends of fallen Navy SEALS and military veterans, Hintzke said.
“The families and friends of fallen Navy SEALs and other key people involved did not have to donate their time and personal belongings to help our team make this happen,” he said. “It’s not only a privilege as a retired SEAL to help develop this project, but also as an American to honor those who have given their lives on behalf of a grateful country.”
For James “Jimmy” Hintzke, retired U.S. Navy SEAL, Valhalla’s Forge LLC isn’t about the money or notoriety. It's about teaching and mentoring motivated individuals.