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Life Worth Leading is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and SCUBA is part of our nonprofit.

We are honored to present Buck's scholarship thanks to the generosity of an anomymous donor. The donor works for Dell who is also providing a matching scholarship for a veteran in 2020! Thank you! If you know of a worthy veteran who would like to become SCUBA certified, please complete the scholarship application.

Biography of Ensign Jerry "Buck" O'Real Pope II Ensign Jerry "Buck" O'Real Pope II was born 2 October 1967. A native of Tallahassee, Florida, he graduated from Leon High School in 1985. After a year of junior college, his competitive spirit, athletic ability, and undying devotion for his country led him to the United States Navy. The Navy assigned him as a fire controlman when he enlisted in 1987. However, intrigued with the history of the Navy SEALs, he actively sought assignment to Basic Underwater Demolition School/SEAL (BUD/S) Training. Later that year, Petty Officer Pope received his wish with orders to Coronado, California to attend BUD/S. Unfortunately, only weeks before graduation he suffered from a near fatal training injury. Following recovery and rehabilitation, Petty Officer Pope returned to BUD/S to complete training and graduate with Class 165. After BUD/S he was assigned to an east coast SEAL Team for duty but not long after his arrival he felt his interest lay in medicine and cross-rated to hospital corpsman. As a Navy SEAL qualified hospital corpsman, he deployed multiple times throughout the U.S. Southern command before being transferred to Fort Bragg, North Carolina to serve as an instructor at the renowned Joint Special Operations Medical Training Center. Despite an intense teaching schedule, Petty Officer Pope attended college during his off-hours and within a few years earned a Bachelor of Health Science degree with honors from Campbell University and acceptance to the Department of Defense Intra-Service Physician Assistant (PA) Program. There Officer Candidate Pope continued to maintain his high academic standards graduating February 2001 in the upper percentile of his class with a degree from the University of Nebraska and a commission as a medical service corps officer. Following PA graduation, Ensign Pope received orders to the Naval Medical Clinic in Quantico, Virginia where he served until August 2002 when he accepted a volunteer assignment to a specified Individual Augmentee program supporting special operations. Ensign Pope was killed in a motor vehicle crash while temporarily assigned to the American Embassy Yemen for ongoing counterterrorism operations on 16 October 2002. He was interned at Arlington National Cemetery on 21 November 2002.

Buck's Scholarship 2020 Recipient
Eric Noon

life worth leading buck scholarship recipient eric noon with unit

Congratulations to Eric Noon for being the 2nd recipient of Buck's Scholarship! Eric Noon was born in Hollywood, Florida. He grew up in South Florida enjoying martial arts, baseball, competitive soccer, golf, and any activity including swimming and fishing that involved being in or around water. He was exposed to the wonders of the aquatic world at a very young age, the most beautiful being Barbados. His parents shared the passion of the ocean, and it made the transition from land into the water almost effortless. He graduated high school in 1998 and moved to Orlando area to start his studies at Valencia Community College. He was enrolled in a college course for SCUBA diving when he decided he needed more discipline, so Eric joined the Marine Corps. He joined the Marine Corps Reserves so he could further his education while honorably serving his country as a diesel mechanic. He was called to active duty to serve in Iraq during the invasion of 2003 where he suffered a concussion. Once home, he realized transitioning back to “normal” was nonexistent. He was battling serious issues that were later diagnosed as PTSD and a Traumatic Brain Injury. These issues led him into some dark places that became even darker when he lost his best friend in life, his father who had served in the Navy and later became a well-respected police officer for Metro Dade PD. Eric’s dad had also battled with PTSD from Vietnam and was going to be Eric’s advocate when he returned home. This led Eric into years of instability, recklessness, relationship problems, joblessness, homelessness, and suicidal thoughts.

In 2010 Eric settled down in Tallahassee and started culinary school at Keiser University. Cooking has always been a passion of his, and he loves how it can bring the world together. Eric traveled the country using his skills to help others grow. Eventually the extremes of the industry caught up to him, and he had to take a break. Eric checked himself into an inpatient care facility in Jacksonville in order to better understand his longtime issues caused by his TBI. During this time, he learned new life skills such as yoga, meditation, and SCUBA therapy. He says, “I now find myself blessed with my newfound relationship with my God and an opportunity to take my love for the water and its healing ways. I am grateful for this opportunity not only for myself, but for those that I hope to share an eternal bond of human connection with.”

In June 2021, Eric was accepted into the leadership program for Life Worth Leading. He will begin his advanced training to work toward his divemaster certification!

life worth leading buck scholarship recipient eric noon with son at disney

He currently lives in a tiny house community in Tallahassee with his family nearby. He also has a son, Ayden, who is lives in the Space Coast area. He currently works as a traveling culinary artist. When not at work, he enjoys mountain biking, kayaking, fishing, reaching out to other veterans, and playing video games with my son online. He aspires to work toward a career in the water and says he’d love to help others so they can enjoy all the benefits scuba has to offer. Eric’s military decorations include: Combat Action Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, and Marine Corps Reserve Ribbon. 

SCUBA Diving is healing and powerful!

Congratulations to Eric Noon, a decorated U.S. Marine, for being the 2nd recipient of Buck's Scholarship!

"Buck," as his friends and teammates knew him, was not only the consummate professional within the special operations and medical communities but someone who possessed an uncanny ability to smile during times that would frustrate even the most patient of individuals. Often he would discuss his past misfortunes with a laugh and calming demeanor that would make others wonder how he was able to maintain his personal stamina and sense of humor during some of the most difficult of times. A selfless man, he often volunteered for the worst assignments and gave more than expected. He was a close friend to many, and everyone who knew him misses him. Ensign Pope's decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Navy Achievement Medal, the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Navy Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, expert Navy Rifleman and Pistol Medals, the Special Warfare (SEAL) breast insignia, and the Naval Parachutist breast insignia. Buck is survived by his wife Andrea his children Drew, Leah, Jack, and his mother and stepfather Violet and Otto M. Stroud, his brother Jeremy Shea Pope who all reside in Virginia Beach, Virginia, his father and stepmother Jerry O. and Susan Pope of Tallahassee, Florida, as well as eight step brothers, two in Virginia Beach and six in Tallahassee.