The Earth’s coral reefs needed a savior. These retired veterans needed something to save.

Force Blue is unlike any veteran rehabilitative program in the world. And it all started with a dive.

In 2015, Jim Ritterhoff noticed that his friend, former combat diver Rudy Reyes, wasn’t his usual self. After retiring from an intense career in the Marines, Rudy was struggling with depression and anxiety.

"He still looked like Rudy," Jim says. "But the light wasn't on."


Rudy and fellow veteran William Hinkson (left). All photos courtesy of Force Blue.

Jim asked Rudy to go with him to the Grand Caymans, where his friend Keith Sahm owned a recreational dive facility. Jim hoped that some time in the Caribbean would lift the veteran's spirits — but it ended up doing much more than that.

In just five days of diving in the Grand Caymans, Rudy was transformed. Though he was an experienced diver, this was his first foray into an underwater world that wasn’t dark or dangerous — it was a thriving biological community.

The fact that the ocean could have a rehabilitative effect on struggling veterans wasn't new. But what the three friends realized was that combat divers like Rudy also had something to offer the reef community — a unique set of skills that could be used to help preserve these coral communities.

The idea for Force Blue was born.  

The Force Blue divers are bound by their shared mission — to help preserve and protect the Earth's coral communities.

Force Blue is a trailblazing effort to harness the power of nature and use it to benefit both humans and the environment.

It’s a brand-new type of post-military program that would help former combat divers cope with their PTSD by refocusing their skills toward the mission of marine conservation.

We often assume that PTSD must come from a trauma of some sort, but for many veterans, that isn't the case. After having spent years — decades, in some cases — driven relentlessly by conviction, passion, and purpose, the sudden aimlessness of civilian life can be too much for some veterans to handle. This jarring transition alone can be enough to bring on debilitating cases of post-traumatic stress.

That’s where Force Blue comes in.

Force Blue's first team consists of seven highly trained combat veterans who have refocused their skills on their new mission: marine conservation.

"We don’t consider ourselves a dive therapy program. We consider ourselves a mission therapy program," Jim says.

Force Blue doesn't just keep veterans active — it gets them redeployed and back in service of a purpose far greater than themselves: restoring the coral reefs that are in danger of being depleted.

According to the Ocean Conservancy, coral reefs are suffering due to increasing ocean temperatures and acidification levels. But reefs are incredibly valuable — they house about 25% of marine species and, economically, generate nearly $10 billion in tourist revenue each year — so it's important that they have a protector.

Force Blue has found the veterans for the job. "We’re taking the most highly trained divers in the world, and all we’re doing is retraining them for a different mission — a positive mission, which is to help the planet in some respect."

And marine conservation is the perfect effort for veterans to redirect their sense of conviction.

"Coral reefs are a community. And that community is under threat," Jim says. "All these guys have ever done throughout their careers is protect communities." Once Force Blue's marine scientists get the divers briefed on the threat to coral communities, the veterans' protective instinct is automatic.

Team One learned from some of the world's leading marine scientists before deploying to their first mission in the Caymans.

So far, Force Blue has one team fully trained and is getting ready to add more teams soon.

Their cause has proven to appeal to people across all spectrums, breaking down barriers of difference not just between scientists and special operatives, but also between people of differing political beliefs.

Whether you care about veterans issues, the environment, or both, Jim says, "Guess what? We're all in the same boat."

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Nature Valley

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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via KGW-TV / YouTube

One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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Culture