On April 2, 2016, I was standing on the beach at Ocean Reef, Florida, staring at the sky and suddenly a parachute opened. The letters “SEAL” were stark against the yellow and blue background of the parachute. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Navy SEALs parachuting in, jumping from helicopters, K-9s chasing bad guys. It was so inspiring! I had been looking to get into the “fight,” but until I saw that parachute open, it was just an idea.
I raced over to meet the first jumper (he was a little wet, having missed the X on the beach and landed in the water, probably the first time he ever missed the X). I quickly learned that this demonstration of skills was part of a fundraiser for the Navy SEAL Museum. I asked if they had ever put on a similar demonstration in New England. Then all of a sudden it hit me. I asked if I could put on a fundraiser in New Hampshire, would the SEALs come? Without any hesitation, the answer was “affirmative” and that was it. It was on!
On July 14, 2017, I was standing on the beach at Newfound Lake, Bristol, NH, with my wife Julie, staring at the sky and saw the chutes open, with the now familiar “SEAL” letters. Thousands of New Englanders had shown up to view the SEAL demonstration. Earlier that day, hundreds of swimmers, kayakers, paddle boarders, and volunteers had made their way across our beautiful lake, along with a group of SEALs, to raise money to support our veterans! There were so many special moments during the day. We honored Gold Star Families from New Hampshire, including the family of SEAL Commander Dan Healy. One of our volunteers working the grill, the mother of a SEAL Team 8 Brother, stole a hug from Navy SEAL Paul Lavoie, who knew exactly what to say to this SEAL Mom who wondered if her son was safe. Many young folks themselves hoping to become soldiers one day met with the SEALs. So many swimmers, volunteers, and spectators, all with their own special connection to the veteran community and some just wanting to understand more about our brave warriors.
It was an emotional day to witness how many families have sacrificed so much for the rest of us to live in freedom.
It was inspiring to see the awesome skills of our elite forces. It was so satisfying to see so many swimmers raising money from tens of thousands of donors, to see the display of patriotism from those that showed up. For Julie and I, and our merry band of organizers, who had planned every detail of this event for over a year, we felt we had made our SEAL guests proud.
So here is our backstory. We are only telling it to you in the hope it inspires you to also do something. For us, living in New Hampshire, the “first in the nation primary” state, we enjoy extraordinary access to our candidates running for President. Anyone can meet whichever candidate they want. We were quite taken with one particular candidate and spent a lot of time organizing and attending town hall meetings with him all over NH. At every single town hall meeting, there were veterans telling their stories of an appalling lack of services and respect. When the NH Primary was finally over and the “show” moved on to the second in the nation primary in SC, the only thing Julie and I could remember were the haunting stories of our veterans. So, we talked about it (like most people) and decided that it was time for us to actually do something. Something. We weren’t sure yet exactly what that something was, so we went to work trying to figure it out. We knew that there are good veteran service organizations that are struggling to raise money. We knew that there are lots of charities trying to raise money. So, we decided that the key was for us to be creative and find a new niche to raise money.
While there are lots of charities asking cyclists, runners, and walkers to raise money, being a swimmer myself, I realized that there are very few asking swimmers. So, we decided to invite swimmers to come from all over the USA to swim across our beautiful lake and ask them to raise money for our veterans. We picked local and regional veteran charities to support and were looking for a national veterans group to support. We were also nervous that a first time event would not draw much attention or money, at least until that day standing on the beach in Ocean Reef, Florida. When I first saw the SEAL parachute open, I knew I had the missing piece. We created Swim With A Mission, an open water festival, featuring the Navy SEALs. We raised $371,000 in our first year.
On July 14, 2018, we will host the second swim across Newfound Lake. We have also added a second event on July 12, 2018, a leadership and teambuilding day playing paintball with the SEALs. We plan to raise over $1 million in our second year. Please check out our website if you would like more details on how you can participate www.swimwithamission.org.
Thanks to the SEALs who helped us successfully launched a new charity to support the Navy SEAL Museum, Trident House Charities, and a host of veteran service charities in New England.
The team at the Navy SEAL Museum led by Rick Kaiser, Ken Corona, and Mark Hileman has made it so easy to work with them. And there is so much more. As we meet more and more SEALs and their families, we know that we have found friendships that will last a lifetime. We are blessed to be part of this incredible community full of American heroes! It is an honor and a privilege to be able to do something!! After reading this, we hope you will too! And if you want to know the identity of the SEAL that missed the X on that Ocean Reef beach in front of thousands of people, you are going to have to contact me (hint: he is a famous war hero that has landed successfully on the X thousands of times). Hooyah!
By Philip and Julie Taub, Swim With A Mission Founders
See original article of SEALs Swim With A Mission.