How awesome is this message from Erich Bartels (Staff Scientist/Program Manager/Dive Safety Officer for Mote Marine Laboratory)? Check out how many coral colonies were planted on the reef and created in the nursery!
“CWVC/SCUBAnauts – I just wanted to take a moment, now that the dust has settled, to thank all of you for the time and effort that went into planning last weeks restoration dives with Mote. Please pass along my thanks to all of the CWVC divers and their support staff, along with all of the kids and dive pros with SNI, for all of their help and assistance in the water last week. Despite some challenges coordinating boat schedules, along with weather that didn’t always cooperate, we still managed to complete an amazing amount of work….in all, through the combined efforts of CWVC, SNI, and Mote over the three day period, we were able to outplant 500 new colonies of staghorn coral, as well as create more than 2,200 new staghorn colonies in our underwater nursery. In addition, more than 60 new anchors for our coral “trees” were installed in the nursery, which will provide the desperately needed infrastructure for expanding our staghorn “spawning nursery”, establishing a dedicated area for our newly developed effort to propagate and outplant elkhorn coral, as well as creating a permanent location within the nursery to be used for Mote and Capt. Hooks to develop a community-based restoration program to further engage the dive community in Mote’s ongoing restoration efforts year-round.
Thank you all again, and a big thank you to Kim and the entire staff at Capt. Hooks for their support, flexibility, and for ensuring that everyone had a safe and enjoyable experience. Thank you!!!”
Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge is featured in the fall issue of Better Off Wet!
This article talks about our recent challenge in Key West where Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge Warriors and Gold Star Teen Adventures joined MOTE Marine Laboratories to restore damaged reefs. Warriors and teens collected the staghorn coral that was propagated by MOTE and then places in it’s permanent home…a memorial reef honoring those that have fallen in combat.
In order to participate in the reef restoration project, those combat wounded warriors and Gold Star teens that weren’t already, had to get certified to dive right there in Key West. The adventure produced awareness for our fragile marine ecosystem, as well as awareness of other military groups and their struggles.
Under the direction of the amazing staff at MOTE and various other organizations, our Gold Star families discovered that they are still a vital part of the military and non-military community, and the Combat Wounded Veterans found a new way to contribute to the healing of the ocean, and others while healing themselves.
The final stage of the Key West challenge was to do research on prosthetics after the reef restoration dives were complete. The research helps prosthetists understand the effects certain conditions can have on prosthetic limbs, as well as address the unique challenge that being underwater with prosthetic limbs creates. Buoyancy and maneuverability are difficult to learn when you are being certified, but they become monumental challenges when you are learning to scuba dive AND are missing limbs! The prosthetists work hard during these trips to develop ways to make life with limb loss easier both in the water and on land.
The article in Better Off Wet can be found here.
By William “Bill” Congleton
The Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge tested me physically, mentally and emotionally. I was fortunate enough to bring my son on this trip. I wanted my son to see what teamwork and comaraderie is all about, and that there are other combat wounded veterans who are out living their life to the fullest, not letting the physical and mental strains resulting from combat stop us. During this I was reminded that we all have issues and it is up to us how we respond to our challenges. “Uncommon valor was a common virtue” best fits what I experienced.
My path to recovery wasn’t the same as the other veterans. I did not recover at Walter Reed or Brook Army hospitals. I learned through this trip that it didn’t matter how or where I recovered, all that matters is that I am here and alive, at the end of it all we are the same with the same drive to keep pushing forward, not letting anything stop us. Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge has a motto “Wounded, not Conquered”. The 2014 Scuba Challenge has reminded me of this and as a bonus my son has seen this as well. Thank you CWVC.
One memory that will be with me forever was the underwater navigation course. We were teamed up with the SCUBAnauts to scuba 500 meters as fast and accurate as we could. I was teamed up with a Scubanaut who had won this challenge a couple times. I was determined to give everything I had to keep up.She was fast, pushing me and my abilities to the max. I pushed so hard that I had a panic attack. I felt comfortable pushing through knowing that I had a partner who could help me push past it all. The last couple minutes of the exercise I needed to share her oxygen because I had used up my air. At that moment when the intensity was high for me, I began to calm knowing that this is what trust and team work is all about.
Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge – Key West, FL. – Reef Restoration and Scuba Challenge Research Project 2013
Video by CWVC Challenge Warrior: Roland Vaughan
Sanctuary reefs are being bolstered by the efforts of some very special volunteers this summer. Divers with the Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge and SCUBAnauts International joined scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory in July to help tend corals in an underwater nursery as part of an ongoing reef restoration effort.
The Mote Marine Laboratory coral nursery and transplant sites are one of several in the Keys permitted by the marine sanctuary. In these nurseries, scientists grow corals – primarily the threatened staghorn coral – which are eventually transplanted to reef areas where those species have declined. In late July, eight combat wounded veterans, 20 SCUBAnauts, and two snorkelnauts helped Mote scientists hang small coral clippings on underwater structures dubbed “trees” where the corals grow rapidly.
The combat wounded veterans participating this summer included transtibial (below the knee) and transfemoral (above the knee) amputees who are able to dive by using specialized waterproof prosthetics, as well as a double lung transplant recipient and veterans with traumatic brain injuries. Their inspirational motto Vulneror non Vincor (I am wounded, not conquered) is also applicable to Keys corals reefs, which like reefs around the world, have declined for the last 40 years but benefit from conservation and restoration efforts.
In the Mote Marine Lab coral nursery, staghorn coral clippings hung from special underwater structures grow quickly. When colonies grow large enough, they may be planted at reef sites as part of reef restoration efforts.
By involving citizen scientists in reef restoration, Sanctuary partners at Mote are providing hands-on opportunities to learn more about threats to reef health and conservation efforts. Through this cross-mentorship program, the youth and wounded veterans overcome individual challenges to create a positive change for the reefs and each other.
“Our wounded servicemen and women make a powerful impact and example on youth and those who face similar circumstances. Through these challenge experiences, they demonstrate to others that despite their injuries, they too, can overcome seemingly insurmountable personal challenges, while advancing rehabilitative research,” said David Olson, founder of Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge.
The Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge improves the lives of wounded and injured veterans through rehabilitative high-adventure and therapeutic outdoor challenges while furthering the physiological, biomedical and pathological sciences associated with their injuries. Past challenges have included hiking Mount Kilimanjaro, packrafting and mountaineering in Alaska, and hiking the Grand Canyon.
SCUBAnauts International’s mission is to guide young men and women ages 12 through 18 along a pathway for personal development by involving them in the marine sciences through underwater marine research activities, such as special environmental and undersea conservation projects, that build character, promote active citizenship and develop effective leadership skills.
This restoration event is being supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and The Nature Conservancy’s Community-Based Restoration Program, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, private donors, Fury Watersports in Key West, and Mote and its Protect Our Reefs license plate program.