Shark 'Dive for Freedom' off Florida coast takes veterans on exciting new adventure

Shark Addicts of Jupiter helped celebrate veterans by taking them for a swim with sharks with the Wounded Veterans Relief Fund.

JUPITER, Fla. – More than 20 veterans spent July Fourth off the coast of Florida facing something many people fear: the ocean's top predator.

Surrounded by sharks for a couple of hours, the dive off Jupiter, Florida, was one way two organizations honored those who serve and protect. Shark Addicts partnered with the Wounded Veterans Relief Fund to celebrate the group of veterans for Independence Day.

The Wounded Veterans Relief Fund raises money to support veteran dental needs, prevent homelessness and create a community through unique experiences.

"A lot of our veterans, they really want to be with other veterans because when you get out of the military, you're kind of on your own," Wounded Veterans Relief Fund Executive Director Michael Durkee said.

FOX Weather's Brandy Campbell joined the group for their shark dive on Tuesday.

With the bait dropped, the veterans took on another life adventure: diving into the ocean and swimming among sharks.  

Army veteran John Rourke said the group talked shop and shared memories while they got ready to prepare for their swim with sharks.


"It's kind of a thrill … (it's) the only kind of thrill you get would be like going outside the wire or skydiving," Rourke said.

Army Veteran Seth Howard agreed the thrill was part of the appeal of swimming with toothy sea creatures.

"I think it appeals to a lot of veterans because you don't go into the military looking for an ordinary day, ordinary lifestyle," Howard said.

During the dive, the group swam with bull sharks and sandbar sharks and spotted a hammerhead. At one point, about a dozen sharks were in the water with the veterans.

The weather provided ideal conditions with good visibility for the Independence Day dive.

This year marked the seventh for the "Dive for Freedom" event. The group plans to continue bringing veterans out to swim with the sharks for years to come.