BRISTOL — “We live in the land of the free and the home of the brave, because of the brave,” said Phil Taub who, with his wife, Julie, founded Swim With A Mission last year to raise money for causes that help veterans.

The event on Saturday, which featured at least a half-dozen Navy SEALS arriving in Blackhawk helicopters and Humvees to demonstrate their skills while helping veterans, drew more than 2,000 people to Wellington State Park on the shores of Newfound Lake in Alexandria.

The Taubs said they created the event as a fundraiser after they became aware of the poor treatment that many veterans were receiving. “They needed help,” Phil Taub said.

Leaning on their passions for swimming and lake living, the Taubs scheduled an early morning swimming competition and added veterans to the mix and, from that, Swim With A Mission was born.

The first Swim With A Mission last year raised $371,000 through various channels, giving the Taubs the impetus to do it again.

Hundreds of swimmers — spotted by volunteers in kayaks — participated in 1k, 5k, and 10k individual races, as well as a 10k relay on Saturday.

Much of the day involved displays put on by the elite fighting unit known as the Navy SEALS.

Two VIP sessions were well-attended, and many of the spectators listened for 45 minutes as SEALS explained who they were and described some of their experiences.

Jason Kuhn, who spent eight years as a SEAL, said that many of the things he learned in that unit are applicable to civilian life, including “selflessness” and “self-awareness.” He also said that training was the key to making the SEALS one of the most feared military groups in the world. They were given so much to fear — and conquer — during that training, Kuhn explained, that it allowed them to maintain their composure in battle.

The SEALS in attendance demonstrated their expertise by staging mock battles, both amphibious and land-based.

Kuhn’s story resonated with Marisa Moorhouse, Miss America New Hampshire and a student at Southern New Hampshire University, who hopes to be a military pilot.

“I feel honored to be here,” she said. “This is a great way to raise money to help veterans.”

Many veterans appreciated the day and shared it with their families. Retired Col. Hunt Kerrigan and his wife, Lt. Col. Stephanie Kerrigan, of Durham, brought their two sons to the event.

“I am very impressed,” Kerrigan said, praising the Taubs for creating it. “This shows great love and support.”

Son Jonathan, 8, showed he understood what the event was about when he said, “We are raising money for people who really need it.”

Taylor Hough, 15, of Laconia, participated in the swim both this year and last, and placed second overall in the 2018 5k.

“I really enjoy this event,” said the Northfield Mount Hermon School student who also hopes to join the military later in life, following in the footsteps of her grandfather. “This is a good thing,” she said.

More than 250 volunteers and vendors showed up early and began setting up their booths and locations for the day among the pine forest.

There was food by the Common Man, Sub Zero Nitrogen Ice Cream, face-painting and a variety of military-oriented information kiosks.

When everything was ready, the public arrived by foot, boat, bicycle and auto. Many were bused from satellite locations that eventually swelled the numbers in the park and, for a few hours, came close to doubling nearby Bristol’s 3,000 permanent population.

Kyle Bostock of Manchester, who attended last year’s event, noticed the difference. “The scale is so much bigger this year,” he said.

So did co-founder Phil Taub, who noted after a series of emotional presentations, “Last year we raised $371,000 for deserving veteran’s organizations; this year we hope to more than double that.”

By Ron Cole
This article was originally published in the The Laconia Daily Sun.

BRISTOL – The U.S. Navy’s primary special operations force demonstrated Saturday what they do best, and a large crowd of onlookers lived to tell about it.

Two Navy SEALs parachuted from a helicopter into Newfound Lake, while a four-man team and a Navy SEAL dog skipped the parachutes and instead jumped out of a hovering chopper and plunged into the water. They were picked up by a waiting inflatable boat and roared back to the beach.

The event was part of Swim with a Mission, an open-water swim festival founded to both honor and support veterans.

“The feedback that we have gotten and the amount of people we have helped has been amazing,” said Julie Taub, who co-founded the event with her husband, Bedford attorney Phil Taub.

“The mental toughness, the teamwork and other things that they have taught us can be applied to all parts of your life,” Julie said of being able to listen and learn from some of the nation’s most elite warriors.

Retired Master Chief Rick Kaiser said the modern-day SEALs can trace their roots to World War II. In their 75-year history, there have been just 16,000 Navy SEALs. Currently, about 100 to 125 men annually earn the coveted trident. The training is so rigorous that the dropout rate remains at 70 percent.

During a question-and-answer session with the crowd, Kaiser, a winter warfare specialist, recounted that during his training he was dropped in Greenland and skied for two weeks to get off the ice cap, ran out of food and then had to perform a mission before being extracted.

“The instructors try to get you to quit in training because they don’t want you to quit in combat,” he said.

Fellow retired Master Chief Steve “Mato” Matulewicz is now a part-time resident of New Hampshire and works for Sig Sauer. He said the training taught him four things: never quit, lead, follow or get out of the way.

“The training changed my life. Regardless of the task, it continues until done,” he said.

Kaiser serves as executive director of the SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Fla., where the first Amphibious Scouts and Raiders School was established in 1942.

“It’s our turn to be there for them,” Gov. Chris Sununu told the thousands of people who lined the beach at Wellington State Park to watch both the swimmers and later, the SEALS.

Josh Wright of Manchester, who swam the 5K course in 1 hour and 29 minutes, said Newfound Lake is ideal.

“It’s calm, the temperature was perfect and to hear people cheering for you? It’s awesome,” he said.

During the swim, Wright said, when his body was exhausted and his spirts flagging, his thoughts turned to the SEALs.

“These guys do these swims wearing heavy equipment in the ocean at night,” he said. “It’s every kid’s dream. They do some really cool stuff.”

Taylor Hough, 15, of Laconia, and a student at Northfield Mount Hermon, turned in the winning time in the individual 5K swim of 1 hour and 26 seconds.

“I know I got beat by a girl, but at least she is half my age,” Wright said.

Organizers said they had more swimmers participate this year and that they were hoping that the crowd size had doubled from the 2,000 tallied in 2017. Last year, Swim with a Mission raised more than $370,000.

“People have been really excited about it, and the SEALs have made themselves very accessible. They don’t like to talk about themselves but rather the SEALs in general,” Julie Taub said.

“They are the nicest, most gentle, kindest and amazing people that we have ever met, and now they are our friends,” she said.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Navy SEAL Museum, Veterans Count, Children of Fallen Patriots, the Dan Healy Foundation and other Lakes Region veterans organizations.

By Bea Lewis, Union Leader Correspondent
This article was originally published in the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Watch the video on 

Navy SEALs showed off their best moves Saturday to raise money for New Hampshire veterans.

The annual Swim with a Mission event includes air, land, and water demonstrations of the skills needed to find and capture enemies. But SEALs say the lessons they learn go far beyond physical prowess.

“They teach us about mental toughness, about team first,” says organizer Julie Taub. “The things they have taught us…can be applied to all of the parts of our lives, and it has been truly amazing.”

Swim with a Mission started in the Granite State. Organizers say events during the 2016 election drove home the need to help veterans. It just two years, the program has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to benefit local organizations.

“The folks from New Hampshire are unbelievably patriotic,” says Retired Master Chief Rick Kaiser. “They’re very community-oriented, and they really support us.”

You can learn more about the organization and future events at swimwithamission.org.

By Siobhan Lopez, Reporter
Watch the video on WMUR News 9