Wounded Warriors end Florida Keys Soldier Ride with dolphins

Author: Florida Keys News Bureau
Veterans with Wounded Warriors swim with dolphins in the Florida Keys. Credit: Florida Keys News Bureau

Interacting with dolphins in the Florida Keys provided physical and emotional therapy Sunday for a group of wounded U.S. military veterans.

The activity at Dolphin Research Center ended the Wounded Warrior Project’s annual Florida Keys Soldier Ride that took some 40 participants and their families on a trip down the Florida Keys Overseas Highway to Key West Friday, the first of the annual three-day Keys experience for vets.

The half-day of dolphin therapy at DRC gave participants an opportunity to interact with the marine mammals in a variety of behaviors including shaking flippers, dolphin kisses and splash sessions. Engaging directly with dolphins helped participants momentarily forget about their injuries, and for many, it was a dream come true.

“I love dolphins, and it was always my dream to swim with dolphins,” said U.S. Army Specialist, Ret. Corine Hamilton. “I don’t remember anything about my injury, it was all about fun.”

For years DRC has committed itself to support veterans and active-duty personnel from all branches of the United States military.

“Speaking on behalf of my fellow warriors, I think for them, it just means that they have time to get away from their stress, get away from the pain of their injuries, and just be able to enjoy this beautiful weather, the beautiful dolphins and all the nice people here,” said USAF Staff Sgt. Juan Lopez.

The team at Dolphin Research Center looks forward to providing the experience every year after the Wounded Warrior Soldier Ride.

“The warriors have been through so much, and so many struggles when they come home,” said Rita Irwin, DRC CEO. “This is a place where they just come into the dolphins’ world and have fun and laugh and are free in the water.”

Soldier Ride is organized annually by the Wounded Warrior Project to raise public awareness and support the needs of severely injured members of the military. Funds raised help to develop peer-mentoring programs, foster veterans’ independence, and arrange needed transport between home and rehabilitation hospital.

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