Climbing up the ladder onto the dive boat, Kaylee Henry, 18, was grinning from ear to ear. She giggled out, “that was so awesome.”
Back at the dock she and her other newly certified scuba buddies happily chatted about the experience.
“Wow, we were breathing under water! Did you see the barracuda and nurse shark? I thought the parrot fish was really cool,” shouts Catherine Reese, 15.
Kaylee and 22 other family members of Gold Star Teen Adventures were in Tavernier learning scuba diving from July 12 through July 15 as part of a trip to Keys.
Kent Solheim, a father or two, was very seriously wounded in combat in Iraq in 2007 and ultimately lost his right leg.
His road to recovery led to the creation of the Gold Star Teen Adventures, which provides similar emotional healing opportunities that Kent experienced with his fellow warriors for the family members of fallen Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps special operations personnel.
Kelly Gibbons, widow of a Black Hawk Army special operations helicopter pilot, and her daughter Lauren, 15, were members of the newly certified scuba divers.
“This program is making special memories for us and helps heal the pain,” she said. “I looked for Lauren under water and saw that big smile on her face.”
The Gold Star Teen Adventure Program offers the teens the opportunity to learn a variety of outdoor adventure activities and leadership skills.
Kent, who continues to serve in the military’s special operations community, wanted his children to be able to experience the bonding and excitement of the skills he learned in special operations.
Captain Gary Mace, who with his wife Brenda, owns Conch Republic Divers in Tavernier, is a board member of Gold Star Teen Adventures.
“When these families come visit us down in the Keys, they arrive as strangers, but leave as family. We are honored to be a part of Gold Star Teen Adventures and hope others will help support this worthy cause,” he said.
For more on this outstanding program that provides vital support to the families of our fallen heros who gave their lives serving our country, see: http://www.gstadventures.org/
And go to www.conchrepublicdivers.com for more information about Conch Republic Divers.