Vets, Teens Transplant Corals In Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary

OFF BIG PINE KEY (CBSMiami) — A dozen wounded veterans are wrapping up several days of diving in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Tuesday to help transplant corals on a special section of the reef set aside as a remembrance area for fallen American service personnel.

The vets were joined by teens from two organizations to sow staghorn corals on a section of a patch reef permitted to Mote Marine Laboratory.

“It’s better for us as veterans to have these kind of expeditions to give us a focus,” said Billy Costello, a retired U.S. Army Sgt. First Class who lost his right leg during a bomb explosion while stationed in Afghanistan in 2011. “In the process of doing this, we’re coming together as a team.

“We’re building rapport with one another,” he added. “We’re sharing these experiences and we’re getting things off our chests.”

Four of the eight youth divers are members of Gold Star Teen Adventures, an organization providing adventure camps for survivors of military personnel who died in the line of duty. The rest belong to SCUBAnauts International, a program that involves youngsters in the marine sciences.

“I like working with the vets because it reminds me that no matter what, you can keep going,” said Mia Foisy, 14, a member of SCUBAnauts. “It doesn’t matter what happens, you can always take the next step.”

Mote has been involved in growing and transplanting threatened staghorn corals in the sanctuary for about eight years.

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