Coral reefs are more than magnificent sculptures carved by the ocean. They’re more than living rock hugging coastlines all over the world, home to a plethora of marine life — known to many a seafaring peoples as the “rain forests” of the sea. And they don’t just offer a tourist hotspot, or a source of radical, lifesaving medicine, or a buffer of security against surging storms that only seem to be increasing with each passing hurricane season.
Select one on a blue map and it may just be one of many a healing oasis for military veterans trying to return the favor, trying to start fresh and anew by diving into the salty water, and administering old-fashioned tender love and care to the reefs that need it desperately.
It’s a program called Force Blue, and it was founded by a former recon Marine, a professional diver, and a marketer during a Cayman Island adventure about a year ago.
“Our guys are special forces who are physically strong but who are also struggling,” said Jim Ritterhoff, one of the organization’s operators. ” … they learn how to heal damaged areas. They can then proselytize on behalf of coral reef conservation.”
By restoring the massive carbon ecosystem, the vets are not only aiding Mother Nature and her fight against the destructive forces of our bad consumer habits (fossil fuels, waste, etc.), but they’re contributing to lessening the creeping gloom that is climate change.
“We’re suffering from a suicide epidemic among the special operations community and special operators in general,” said recon Marine veteran Will Hinkson. “There’s a lot of different schools of thought on this, my school of thought is it comes from not what we did, but actually not having a mission now. It allows us to tie into what’s going on under the water, being able to align ourselves with that and being around like-minded people. And really go after that. And that’s something as soon as I heard about and [founder] Rudy told me about it I was one-hundred percent behind.”
“These are the kind of men and women who are so used to sharing everything. Putting their lives on the line,” said Navy SEAL vet Chuck Pfarrer. “If they have something they’ll rip it in half and give you half of it. They can do anything. But they can’t ask for help. They can’t. They won’t. Ever.”
“And because of that, they’ll suffer. And they suffer in silence.”