Florida Veterans Giving Back and Finding Renewed Purpose Through Coral Reef Clean Up

Force Blue, a veteran owned and run organization, has taken on the daunting task of helping to preserve our planet while also doing their part to help Florida veterans re-assimilate back into citizenry.

Valiant causes in their own right, Force Blue has taken these two seemingly unrelated issues and innovated a program to help both. Through scuba diving excursions off the coast of Florida, Force Blue has recruited veterans struggling with PTSD and depression-related issues to find a renewed sense of purpose through community service.

Force Blue’s Birth

Co-founders Jim Ritterhoff and Rudy Reyes had the epiphany after returning from a scuba diving excursion in 2015. Reyes had been dealing with his own demons post-service and was overcome with elation after their scuba trip. This excitement turned to opportunity when the pair realized their vision: give back to their home while helping out their brother’s and sister’s returning from service with mental health troubles.

“We were like, ‘wait a second, we can do some real good for out veteran community and at the same time, we can use our veteran community to help the environment and reach an audience that currently isn’t getting the message,” Ritterhoff told the Good New Network in an interview this past June.

“[That audience] may not listen to scientists, but they’ll listen to navy seals and they’ll listen to marines because these guys are their heroes.”

Impact by the Numbers

Over the past half year, the team has been steadily treating an outbreak of stony coral tissue loss disease that has taken the once immaculate Coral Reef by storm. With over 1,250 dives in the books, Force Blue has applied antibiotics to over 1,200 corals spanning across 80 miles of coast.

Joanna Walczak, Southeast Regional Administrator for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Office of Resilience and Coastal Protect reflected on the group’s effort and commended them for breathing a breath of fresh air into the daunting mission of protecting our oceans: “From day one they have brought everything they have to the table, and Force Blue’s perspective has inspired our response effort and invigorated the mission to preserve Florida’s coral reefs.”

We commend Force Blue on their valiant efforts and wish them godspeed in all future projects. To learn more, visit their website: FORCE BLUE