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Army veteran helps release sea turtle named after soldier

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A sea turtle hooked by an Army veteran has been treated and released back into the wild.

(Photo: Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center)

The turtle was caught by James Spray, who called the Virginia Beach Aquarium after hooking the turtle.

Because of his actions, staff members were able to safely unhook the turtle and rehabilitate him so he could go back to the sea.

But first, Spray had to name him within the aquarium’s theme, crayon colors.

“I started thinking of a name and the tan beret just kept sticking in my mind from my late friend Jason and it just clicked, Ranger Tan,” Spray said.

(Photo: Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center)

Jason Benchimol was a U.S. Army Ranger who took his own life a few months ago while struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It really hit us all very hard,” said Spray. “He was someone with a character of just strength, just like the turtle. He was strong, strong on the outside and softhearted on the inside. He cared about everyone.”

Spray said he saw a lot of the same qualities in Ranger Tan.

So while they released the turtle back into the sea on Friday, Spray saluted him just like when he said goodbye to his friend.

(Photo: Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center)

“That was him that wasn’t just a turtle that we let go today, that was Jason — just in a different form.”