This Veteran's Day we want to celebrate a unique nonprofit that is fostering mental and emotional healing for Special Operations Veterans by way of Marine Conservation. Force Blue seeks to address two seemingly unrelated problems — the rapidly declining health of our planet’s marine resources, and the difficulty that returning combat veterans have in adjusting to civilian life — through one, mission-focused program.
In 2015, Rudy Reyes took a trip to the Cayman Islands that changed his life. The former Recon Marine had been struggling with PTS and depression since returning home from multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, but his week exploring with friends and longtime recreational reef divers Jim Rittenhoff and Keith Sahm was so profoundly healing for him that he was compelled to share his experience with fellow Vets.
Together, Reyes, Rittenhoff and Sahm devised a plan that would bring together combat divers from all branches of service with marine scientists, conservationists and journalists, to create a nonprofit that provides what they call "mission therapy." Force Blue recruits and retools highly trained SpecOps Vets under the tutelage of esteemed marine scientists and conservationists, then redeploys them on missions of preservation and restoration around the globe. They are involved in underwater survey work, marine debris removal, shipwreck mapping, invasive species eradication, marine fauna rescue, shark tagging, scientific research and development, as well as coral reef restoration and rehabilitation.
Image Courtesy of Force Blue
Currently, Force Blue is in the midst of a year-long project to restore 100 yards of coral reef off the coast of Florida, an effort they have dubbed "100 Yards of Hope". Earlier this month, the team successfully harvested and out-planted 1,000+ staghorn coral (a threatened species), thousands of mountainous star coral larvae and 100 genetically unique, 2-year-old staghorn coral colonies onto the restoration site, just south of Miami.
You can donate directly to that project here, as they still have more to do! - https://forceblueteam.org/product/support-100-yards-of-hope/
We must applaud this organization's joint efforts, and thank them for their continued dedication to both marine conservation and to the mental and emotional well-being of Veterans. What a beautiful symbiosis!