Former Navy SEAL Lt. Brandon Stone speaks at the Pillars of America at Centennial Hall on Wednesday, April 19, 2017. Stone, who grew up in Juneau, is the first of three speakers in the annual speaker series hosted by the Juneau Glacier Valley Rotary Club. W. Mitchell speaks on April 26 and Larry Csonka on April 3. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Former Navy SEAL Lt. Brandon Stone speaks at the Pillars of America at Centennial Hall on Wednesday, April 19, 2017. Stone, who grew up in Juneau, is the first of three speakers in the annual speaker series hosted by the Juneau Glacier Valley Rotary Club. W. Mitchell speaks on April 26 and Larry Csonka on April 3. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

‘Exceptional Grit’: Former Juneau Navy SEAL shares his story

“I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m just going to give it all I got.”

That’s how Brandon Stone, speaking to a crowd of attendees, chose to summarize his life at Centennial Hall on Wednesday. His story was brought to Juneau by the Juneau Glacier Valley Rotary Club through its 25th Pillars of America speaker series.

Stone, the first Juneau-grown speaker to share his story through the Pillars program, had been known for his exceptional grit since childhood. Past Rotary President Max Mertz, introducing Stone under his childhood nickname “Spud,” talked about the U.S. Navy SEAL-turned-lawyer’s time as a Juneau Jumper, where he was the youngest person on the team.

Once on the stage, Stone pointed to a photo of a bell from Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training. He noted, looking especially at the youth in the crowd, that to drop out of his training, all he had to do was ring the pictured bell three times. Instead of quitting, though, he chose to keep moving forward, despite the many obstacles that lay ahead of him.

Fresh out of college, Stone recalled how he wanted to go to law school. Having not gotten into a school he wanted to go to, Stone found a new path: become a Navy SEAL officer. Never mind that he had bad eyesight and couldn’t swim — two important parts to becoming a SEAL — Stone applied anyway, and miraculously, was sent to BUD/S despite not fulfilling the requirements.

There, Stone met his challenges with a mixture of determination and idealism. He recalled taping contact lenses to the room walls because his own contacts often washed out of his eyes during training. Later, when he got Pulmonary Edema and was pulled out of training for five months, he used the time off to improve his “competence and character” instead of letting the barrier to get to him.

Stone became one out of 37 to graduate his year. At the beginning of the program, there were almost 300 people working to become a SEAL, and in his words, “somehow, he was one of them.”

On stage, every memory Stone recalled was met with a smile. “I loved it,” he’d say often, talking about the people he met and the opportunity he had to serve his country.

While serving in Afghanistan in 2011, he was tasked with a life-changing experience: to lead his platoon through a Taliban stronghold base. Every one of his team members made it out alive that day, but Stone was airlifted out on a helicopter with a blown left leg that had to be amputated at the hospital. He was later awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star with Valor.

Refusing to use a wheelchair, Stone forced himself to learn how to walk. Although he knew his time with the SEALs was over — he had served eight years — he chose to move on, applying and getting into one of the best law programs in the country under the Tillman Scholarship at Georgetown University.

Stone became a general litigation associate at Kirkland &Ellis LLP in Washington, D.C. He now lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with his wife and three kids.

Although Stone’s ability to get through challenges is admirable, he sees himself as just another Juneauite. He acknowledges life doesn’t always go the way you plan, but that’s how it’s meant to be.

“I never dreamed I’d become a pirate lawyer,” he said, joking about his leg, “but I can either chose to keep going or to just stop.”

Correction: This article has been amended to clarify a quote.


 

• Tasha Elizarde is a high school senior living in Juneau. She writes “This Day in Juneau History” and a Neighbors column, The Story Sharer, for the Juneau Empire.

 


 

More in News

Aurora Forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Feb. 5

Folks at the Alaska State Capitol openly admit to plenty of fish tales, but to a large degree in ways intended to benefit residents and sometimes even the fish. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
The bizarre bills other state legislatures are considering

Alaska’s Legislature isn’t mulling the headline-grabbers some statehouses have in the works.

This photo shows snow-covered hills in the Porcupine River Tundra in the Yukon Territories, Canada. In July 1997, a hunter contacted troopers in Fairbanks, Alaska, and reported finding a human skull along the Porcupine River, around 8 miles (13 kilometers) from the Canadian border. Investigators used genetic genealogy to help identify the remains as those of Gary Frank Sotherden, according to a statement Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, from Alaska State Troopers. (AP Photo / Rick Bowmer)
Skull found in ‘97 in Interior belongs to New York man

A skull found in a remote part of Alaska’s Interior in 1997… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Officer William Hicks stands with JPD Chief Ed Mercer and Deputy Chief David Campbell during a swearing in ceremony for Hicks on Thursday at the JPD station in Lemon Creek. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
New officer joins JPD’s ranks

The Juneau Police Department welcomed a new officer to its ranks Thursday… Continue reading

These photos show Nova, a 3-year-old golden retriever, and the illegally placed body hold trap, commonly referred to as a Conibear trap, that caught her while walking near Outer Point Trail last week. (Courtesy / Jessica Davis)
Dog narrowly survives rare illegally placed trap in Juneau

State wildlife officials outlined what to do if found in similar situation

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Public defender agency to refuse some cases, citing staffing

ANCHORAGE — A state agency that represents Alaskans who cannot afford their… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police: Gift card scam connected to hoax Fred Meyer threats

This article has been moved in front of the Empire’s paywall. A… Continue reading

This is a concept design drawing that was included in the request for proposal sent out by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities seeking outside engineering and design services to determine whether it’s feasible to build a new ferry terminal facility in Juneau at Cascade Point. (Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities)
DOT takes steps toward potential Cascade Point ferry terminal facility

It would accommodate the Tazlina and or Hubbard, shorten trips to Haines and Skagway

Most Read