The Earths coral reefs needed a savior. These retired veterans needed something to save.

Force Blue is unlike any veteran rehabilitative program in the world. And it all started with a dive .

In 2015, Jim Ritterhoff “ve noticed that” his friend, former combat diver Rudy Reyes, wasnt his usual ego. After retiring from an intense career in the Marines, Rudy was struggling with depression and anxiety .

“He still looked like Rudy, ” Jim tells. “But the light wasn’t on.”

Rudy and fellow veteran William Hinkson( left ). All photos courtesy of Force Blue.

Jim asked Rudy to go with him to the Grand Caymans, where his friend Keith Sahm owned a recreational dive facility. Jim hoped that some time in the Caribbean would lift the veteran’s spirits but it ended up doing much more than that.

In only five days of diving in the Grand Caymans, Rudy was transformed. Though he was an experienced diver, this was his first foray into an underwater world that wasnt dark or dangerous it was a thriving biological community.

The fact that the ocean could have a rehabilitative impact on fighting veterans wasn’t new. But what the three friends realise was that combat divers like Rudy also had something to offer the reef community a unique situated of skills that could be used to help preserve these coral communities.

The notion for Force Blue was born.

The Force Blue divers are bind by their shared mission to assistance preserve and protect the Earth’s coral communities.

Force Blue is a trailblazing effort to harness the power of nature and use it to benefit both humans and the environment .

Its a brand-new type of post-military program that would help former combat divers cope with their PTSD by refocusing their skills toward the mission of marine preservation.

We often assume that PTSD must come from a trauma of some sort, but for many veterans, that isn’t the example. After having spent years decades, in some cases driven relentlessly by sentence, passion, and purpose, the sudden aimlessness of civilian life can be too much for some veterans to handle. This jarring transition alone can be enough to bring on debilitating cases of post-traumatic stress.

Thats where Force Blue be coming back .

Force Blue’s first team consists of seven highly trained combat veterans who have refocused their skills on their new mission: marine conservation.

“We dont consider ourselves a dive therapy program. We consider ourselves a mission therapy program, ” Jim tells.

Force Blue doesn’t just keep veterans active it gets them redeployed and back in service of special purposes far greater than themselves : restoring the coral reefs that are in danger of being depleted .

According to the Ocean Conservancy, coral reefs are suffering due to increasing ocean temperatures and acidification levels. But reefs are incredibly valuable they home about 25% of marine species and, economically, generate nearly $ 10 billion in tourist revenue each year so it’s important that they have a protector.

Force Blue has procured the veterans for the job. “Were taking the most highly trained divers in the world, and all were doing is retraining them for a different mission a positive mission, which is to help the planet in some respect.”

And marine preservation is the perfect endeavor for veterans to redirect their sense of sentence .

“Coral reefs are a community. And that community is under threat, ” Jim says. “All these guys have ever done throughout their careers is protect communities.” Once Force Blue’s marine scientists get the divers briefed on security threats to coral communities, the veterans’ protective instinct is automatic.

Team One learned from some of the world’s resulting marine scientists before deploying to their first mission in the Caymans.

So far, Force Blue has one team fully trained and is getting ready to add more teams soon.

Their cause has proven to appeal to people across all spectra, breaking down obstacles of change not just between scientists and special spies, but also between people of differing political beliefs.

Whether you care about veterans issues, the environment, or both, Jim tells, “Guess what? We’re all in the same boat.”

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