There’s a new nonprofit organization that wants to help recent combat veterans use their training and teamwork to preserve coral reefs.
Force Blue seeks to train combat veterans in coral reef restoration, and the Sunset House Dive Resort in Grand Cayman will be the organization’s base of operations when the first class of six veterans begins its training in early 2017.
The idea for Force Blue developed in Grand Cayman last summer during discussions at Sunset House between resort General Manager Keith Sahm, Rudy Reyes and long-time friend Jim Ritterhoff. The men were diving daily, and Sahm gave them a tour of the resort’s new coral nursery where restoration work is being done. The diving proved therapeutic for Reyes, who himself had been battling with the challenges of civilian life after multiple combat deployments.
Sahm, who co-founded Force Blue, says:
“The response to Force Blue has been astounding, and we’re honored to have the support of some very prominent people. It’s a win-win for everyone. Not only will Force Blue train these highly-skilled men and women how to help restore damaged reefs, but it will also teach them to be spokespeople for ocean conservation world-wide.”
“We all know the struggles our veterans, particularly our Special Forces veterans, face coming home after years at war. Our thought was, if we could somehow use diving and marine conservation to give them a positive mission, we could not only help them, but the planet as well.”
Sunset House will be base for Force Blue in Grand Cayman when the first mission is announced and team members are ready to hit the water. The warriors will be trained in coral restoration by marine science experts and they will help tend the resort’s new coral nursery.
Other Cayman dive operators have committed to help with the program, as has the Central Caribbean Marine Institute in Little Cayman. Sahm says ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff, who was himself severely wounded in Iraq, has expressed interested in covering the first class at Sunset House.
“Starting out, Cayman just makes the most logistical sense for us. We have the contacts and support in Cayman to launch Force Blue in a powerful way. And Cayman affords us, not only access to one of the world’s healthiest and most vibrant coral reef systems, but access to some of the world’s finest conservation minds as well.”
Force Blue will be holding a fundraising reception on September 26, 2016 in Dallas, Texas, and will feature a guest list including retired US Navy SEAL Admiral Ed Winter and retired US Marine Corps General David Garza, a former Recon Marine and star of the HBO miniseries “Generation Kill,” among others.