International non-profit organization to retrain veteran combat divers to restore coral and promote conservation; Grand Cayman to be first training site.
Ailing reefs and the warrior spirit – a combination that could be a winning formula for Force Blue, a new non-profit that seeks to help former Special Operations veterans utilize their training and teamwork to preserve the world’s coral reefs. A major fundraising reception in honor of these distinguished veterans and the Force Blue program will be held in Dallas, Texas on Monday, September 26, 2016. The organization’s goal is to introduce its first training class of six veterans at Sunset House Dive Resort in Grand Cayman in early 2017.
“The response to Force Blue has been astounding, and we’re honored to have the support of some very prominent people,” said Sunset House General Manager Keith Sahm who co-found the organization.
Texas real estate magnate and Earth Day Texas founder Trammel S. Crow is hosting the event in Dallas, and the guest list includes some big names from both the veteran and business communities. Individuals expected to attend the Force Blue fundraiser include (Ret) U.S. Navy SEAL Admiral Ed Winter, (Ret.) USMC General David Garza, former Recon Marine and star of the HBO miniseries Generation Kill, Rudy Reyes, Benghazi survivor Kris “Tanto” Paronto, whose story was told in the film 13 Hours and Chuck Pfarrer, former SEAL Team Six member and author of the NY Times bestseller, SEAL Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama Bin Laden.
The idea for Force Blue developed in Grand Cayman last summer during discussions at Sunset House between 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.
“We all know the struggles our veterans, particularly our Special Forces veterans, face coming home after years at war, “said Ritterhoff. “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.”
“It’s a win, win for everyone,” Sahm echoed. 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’re giving warriors a cause and a cause its warriors,” said Reyes.
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,” said Ritterhoff. “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.”
With the world’s coral reefs under threat by global warming, massive bleaching events, overfishing and pollution, a helping hand from America’s best is needed. The organization’s initial two-week training program will take place entirely in Cayman, but the plan calls for expanding Force Blue’s influence to different destinations around the world and bringing other teams aboard.
These valuable reinforcements are welcomed by Keith Sahm who has been fully involved in the local environmental battle to save Cayman’s reefs from destruction ahead of a planned cruise ship dock in George Town Harbour.
“It’s all about raising awareness and reaching a new audience with a message of conservation and care and our veterans are the perfect ambassadors,” said Sahm who is asking for donations to support Force Blue. “Help us. Help vets. Help the planet. There is a lot of good that can be done by joining our team.”
The fundraising reception will be held on Monday, September 26 from 5:00 – 7:00 PM in the Pecan Room of the Old Parkland in Dallas, Texas. For more information about Force Blue or to donate to the organization visit www.forceblueteam.org
About Sunset House
Sunset House/Sunset Divers has been welcoming divers to the Cayman Islands for more than 58 years. It is the only resort in the Cayman Islands, designed by divers, operated by divers, for divers. It’s also the only resort on Grand Cayman that has its own coral reef, with modern and ancient shipwrecks in shallow water right off shore. Underwater visibility on Sunset House’s reef can exceed 200 feet, and a remarkable variety of marine life to be seen there. Our own spectacular 9’ bronze sculpture of the mermaid Amphitrite is one of the most popular shore dive sites in the world. The resort features 50 guest rooms, including 16 deluxe Oceanview rooms, 2 spacious suites and 3 apartments with full kitchenettes. All rooms are air-conditioned, with phones and private baths. Free Hi-Speed Wireless Internet can be accessed throughout the property and a convenient computer station is located in the lobby. SeaHarvest Restaurant offers full menus for some of the healthiest breakfasts, lunch and dinners around and is famous for its East Indian menu. My Bar a popular hangout for both locals and visitors, has been voted “Best in the Caribbean” by Caribbean Travel and Life and the Best of Cayman. Sunset House also features an inviting seaside fresh water swimming pool.