More than 70 active and veteran military troops joined close to 100 members of the SCUBA industry to recently celebrate the announcement of FORCE BLUE’s inaugural deployment at an event held at The Ocean Institute, Dana Point, CA.
FORCE BLUE, the only non-profit specifically created to aid former combat divers and Special Operations veterans in their assimilation back to civilian life by giving them a new, positive mission to help the planet, recently announced its inaugural deployment with six Iraq/Afghanistan veterans. Team members will be taught how to adapt their skills to rebuild and preserve coral reefs off the coast of Grand Cayman.
“The outpouring of support we received, not just from the veteran’s community, but from the dive industry, environmentalists, artists, marine conservationists…It’s truly humbling,” stated FORCE BLUE Co-founder and Executive Director Jim Ritterhoff. “People came because they believe in our mission and want to play a part in its success.”
Military veterans interacted with SCUBA professionals while they enjoyed live performances by country music star Cliff Cody and the eclectic music of singer, songwriter and US Recon Marine Brandon Mills; Rock-n-Roll icon, Ian Astbury of The Cult, his wife, Black Ryder lead singer Aimee Nash and IMAX Head of Content Jamie McCabe were just a few of the notable guests who attended the 3-hour event.
Attendees learned more about FORCE BLUE’s origin and mission from co-founders Jim Ritterhoff, Keith Sahm and U.S. Recon Marine Master Sgt. Rudy Reyes.
Drew Richardson, President and CEO of the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) Worldwide, spoke of the organization’s commitment to support FORCE BLUE and his belief in the team’s mission. He presented a $2,500 check to FORCE BLUE co-founders to be put toward its initial deployment.
National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) Worldwide, Scuba Diving International (SDI), SCUBAPRO, Diver’s Alert Network (DAN), Oakley, Ritz-Carlton luxury hotels, jetBlue, Mission Volant, SUUNTO and Wyland Galleries donated more than 40 items to the silent auction to alleviate the cost of the video production of the inaugural dive.
While dining on a mouth-watering menu of hors d’oeuvres including a delicious gourmet sausage tasting by Mad Mike, a fellow veteran and his company Mad Mike’s American Gourmet Inc., attendees also had the exclusive opportunity to meet veteran military members of the first FORCE BLUE dive team including: U.S. Navy SEAL Lt. Geoff Reeves and FORCE BLUE co-founder U.S. Recon Marine Master Sgt. Rudy Reyes.
“Tonight was a special night for FORCE BLUE. The event provided us the opportunity to connect face-to-face with fellow military troops so they can learn of this great opportunity to still have an important mission in civilian life,” Sgt. Rudy Reyes said. “It also reaffirmed the potential we have to rally people behind our cause — helping our veterans as they help the planet. One team. One fight.”
FORCE BLUE gives former military trained combat divers and veterans of Special Operations Forces an important new mission: to experience and explore one of the most critically endangered ecosystems on the planet–and to adapt their training and teamwork to rebuild the fragile ecosystem and aid in its protection. FORCE BLUE teaches veterans: their skills and training are transferable and can still make a positive difference, camaraderie does exist after combat and helping can be the antidote to harming. FORCE BLUE welcomes the support of people and organizations who see the value in this unique mission and want to play a part in its success. Visit www.forceblueteam.org to learn more.