A unique type of graduation will take place at Camana Bay on Friday 5 May as six Special Ops veterans celebrate completion of the inaugural Force Blue programme for marine conservation.
Co-founded by long-time Cayman visitor Jim Ritterhoff, Keith Sahm, General Manager at Sunset House and Rudy Reyes, Force Blue is a non-profit organisation which aims to help US veterans struggling to adapt to civilian life by providing them with a mission: Save our coral reefs. Throughout the 10-day programme, the six-man unit will go through intensive military-style training both in and out of the classroom to learn about ocean sustainability.
“We see this programme as the ultimate win-win; an opportunity to do some good, not only for our veterans, but for the planet as well,” said Ritterhoff. “By starting a programme that isn’t just about helping veterans or just about helping coral reefs, but about helping both, we’re really uniting two worlds.”
The idea for Force Blue took shape over drinks at Sunset House one evening in 2015, as Ritterhoff and Sahm shared a beer with their buddy Reyes, a US Marine Corps veteran and recon diver who has served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and depression, and looking for a purpose in his life outside the military, Reyes had a transformative experience while diving in Cayman and was inspired to give others the opportunity to benefit in the same way.
The trio believe the current deployment will be the first of many, and that the Force Blue programme will eventually benefit coral reefs and veterans around the world.
This year’s graduation will be held in Gardenia Court at 6pm on Friday, 5 May. Guest speaker is Wallace “J” Nicholls, renowned marine biologist and author of “Blue Minds,” a book that focuses on the power of water and the benefits of regular immersion.
Members of the public are welcome to attend the event.