Prince Harry and Meghan Markle helped the Navy SEAL Foundation unveil a state-of-the-art Warrior Fitness Program West Coast Facility on Wednesday in downtown San Diego near Petco Park.
The 20,000-square-foot center features advanced technology, equipment and personnel to help Navy SEALs and veterans recover and rebuild mentally and physically from injuries and trauma.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony outside the building at 350 Tenth Avenue. They then joined warriors, veterans and families of Naval Special Warfare indoors for a roundtable discussion among service members and dinner.
The royal couple spent the morning visiting active-duty military and their loved ones at Camp Pendleton.
“We’re thrilled that the Duke and Duchess are here,” said former SEAL Tony Duynstee, who spoke for the SEAL Foundation. “It’s quite an honor for them to be here for the commissioning.”
The foundation already has helped more than 800 active-duty and veteran SEALs and surface warfare combatant crewman. The new San Diego facility could more than double the number of service members in the program.
The Warrior Fitness Program West Coast Facility features advanced fitness and workout resources, including the latest rehabilitation technology and advanced biometric tracking systems.
“It’s not just physical,” Duynstee told the media. “It’s not just shoulders and knees and back. It’s so much more than that.
“It’s mental health, it’s emotional health. It’s bringing people back into community, teaching the right habits starting with the basics like nutrition and sleep.”
Duynstee pointed out that SEALs have had “very heavy sustained combat engagement” for 20 years or more.
Participants in the four- to six-week customized program spend each day under the care and guidance of strength and conditioning coaches, performance dietitians, speech pathologists, chiropractors, and myofascial release and breathing experts, who help address issues like chronic pain, cognitive decline, proper nutrition, sleep disruption and societal reconnection.
The facility, funded by NSF donors and led by Virginia High Performance, includes an 11,169-square-foot gym.
It is the second Warrior Fitness Program Facility, joining the VHP-owned location in Virginia Beach, which opened in 2017.
Duynstee said some of his best friends have taken part in the Virginia program and found it “life-changing.”
“I have a friend with neuropathy, and his symptoms have gone down to almost nothing and so it’s just incredible,” said the former SEAL and now senior vice president of Alexandria Real Estate Equities.
The Warrior Fitness Program aims to optimize human performance for SEALs wherever they find themselves – on the battlefield, transitioning to civilian life, or retired from service.
It provides a holistic, evidence-based recalibration (physical and mental) for NSW personnel to serve as a “hard reset” before leaving the military and for NSW veterans following separation from active duty. The program also helps warriors still serving to recover from injuries.
“It’s so hard when you transition,” Duynstee said. “I transitioned about 15 years ago and you have to re-find your purpose. And so that is a major.”
Upon leaving the service, SEALs no longer have their combat buddies, which is difficult.
“So when they come back here, they re-engage with their fellows in the gym — and that spirit, the morale, is a big booster beyond just learning how to repair themselves physically — so much more around emotional health and mental health,” Duynstee said.
Treating the military member can end up helping the whole family, he said.
If you can stop chronic pain, “that makes the marriage better and that makes that parent a better father. And so there are direct impacts to the family and wellness,” he said.
Duynstee said Prince Harry and Markle have “really destigmatized mental health issues for those who have gone through military service, and they’ve done that with courage and it just great validation to have them here.”
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s organization, Archewell, aids young people and families with challenges of parent deployments.
Prince Harry served in the British Army for 10 years, during which he became a captain and completed two tours duty in Afghanistan.
The Warrior Fitness Program is one of over 30 essential programs the Navy SEAL Foundation offers under five Pillars of Support in its mission to support the Naval Special Warfare community.
“There’s never enough support and we’re starting here,” Duynstee said. “We’re finding that it’s working and there’s more work to be done.”