A message from Charlie Williams, Robert Irvine Foundation’s Vice President of Programs

A veteran myself, I can personally share that there are special relationships formed while serving one’s country. Men and women come from all different locations and backgrounds with ONE purpose: TO SERVE. Yes, connections are established during a deployment, enlistment, or training cycle, but it is a relatively brief period of time. The real bonds are formed through shared hardships, struggles, and triumphs. A unit becomes a family, and that bond lasts a lifetime. After the term is over, our service members return home. Those that served together are then separated and spread out across the nation.

Unfortunately, that separation leads to social isolation.  Service member often seek out the feeling to belong. Their new day-to-day schedule can feel chaotic, learning how to balance their family and work commitments while struggling with new financial barriers. Once home,  service members feel lost. They don’t know where to find the connections that they felt while serving, which prevents them from reengaging with their fellow unit-family. The most common reason for a unit to reconnect is to attend a funeral for one of their brothers or sisters who have died post service. This is one of the many reasons why the Robert Irvine Foundation’s Reuniting the Brave program is crucial for our military community.

This is why Alpha Co 1st Raider Bn reached out for our help.

Alpha Co. 1st Raider Bn: Reuniting the Brave

These Marines and Sailors served together on multiple difficult deployments to Afghanistan in the late 2000’s. However, after 2012 the unit had split up with its members. They left the service or moved into different roles within the military. These individuals would only see each other for the tragic events, and sadly, there was an increase of tragedies in recent years. Alpha Co. 1st Raider Bn decided that they needed to do something to change that trajectory.



They reached out to the Robert Irvine Foundation and quickly got started working on their own Reuniting the Brave event. Three Raiders worked closely with our team over six months to create an unforgettable weekend. No unit is the same so we make sure to create an experience that meets the unit’s needs, while keeping it unique and curated to fit their unit’s personality.  In late March of 2024, over 50 Marines, Sailors, their families, and Gold Star Families descended to St. Petersburg, FL for their Reuniting the Brave event.

The weekend kicked off with a sunset mixer for the unit to relax and reconnect after more than a decade of not seeing one another.



As Marines and Raiders, this unit loved water, many of them would surf together when they had downtime during their service. It was fitting to have activities centered at a location on the bay.

Day two kicked off at Skyway Fishing Pier State Park where the unit received a short period of instruction on efoils. If you aren’t familiar, think of a boogie board with an electric motor! After a few attempts, many of the Raiders were able to “surf” Tampa Bay late into the afternoon.



Later, the Raiders enjoyed the warm Florida weather by kicking back and enjoying great food while sitting poolside. I watched them talk, laugh, and have serious conversations as they bonded while rebuilding their peer-support-network.



The third and final day began with a trip to nearby McDill Air Force base and the Special Operations Command Memorial Wall. Together, the Raiders cleaned the memorial which contains names of the special operations community that have fallen. Several of the names belonged to Raiders they had served with. We then hosted a memorial service to remember and honor the sacrifices of those no longer with us.



As the Reuniting the Brave came to a close, the Raiders gathered once more for a magnificent sunset dinner. The delicious meal was provided and sponsored by our partners, Smokey Bones. The evening featured live music and the Raiders went late into the night savoring every moment. Laughter filled the house from the renewed bonds from the weekend. And I watched as vow’s were made to maintain contact for the Raiders to plan an annual get together every year moving forward. Most importantly, they reengaged with one another in person.



The Raiders are reminded that they are not alone and that they can still lean on each other, now and forever.