For 30 minutes Monday, a combat-wounded Green Beret went underwater near Looe Key to “forget about any pain from my injuries, and not worry about my prosthetics.”
Retired U.S. Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Bobby Dove of Destin joined a 50-diver team of recovering veterans and young marine scientists in a coral-planting event hosted by Mote Marine Laboratory on Summerland Key.
Members of the Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge group and SCUBAnauts International combined to plant about 250 fragments of staghorn coral at a restoration site at the Lower Keys reef.
“It was great!” Dove told Mote Marine staff after his first coral-restoration dive. “After you’re injured, it’s hard to know what’s next. But it’s great to know that we are doing something important for the reef…. I had a mission and a job and it meant that for this dive, I was focused only on that task.
Dove was riding a dirt bike on a June 2012 patrol in Afghanistan when a bomb went off. He lost his right arm and leg.
Members of SCUBAnauts, a Palm Harbor-based organization that allows teenagers to participate in marine science, and the Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge returned to the Keys to help plant coral for the fourth straight year.
“As much as our veteran mentors influence our youth, we find that our [SCUBAnauts’] skill, knowledge and passion inspires our veterans about the future,” said SCUBAnauts International President Jim Cassick.
“The reefs are so damaged and stressed that they cannot repair themselves without our help, so it is important that we undertake this mission to restore them,” said Mote President Michael Crosby. “This mission also helps us raise awareness in the community about the importance of coral reefs.”
The coral-restoration trip, part of Mote’s 60th anniversary, was supported by Lower Keys dive operations Looe Key Dive Center, Strike Zone Charters and Underseas Inc.; the Islander Resort of Islamorada; and several other businesses and benefactors.