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Dominique Plewes is on an elite mission to support our Special Operations Forces

Rancho Santa Fe resident leads the way in carrying out SOF Support Foundation's commitment to caring for those who serve at the highest level

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The ideal goal for any foundation should be that it is so successful it puts itself out of business,” says Rancho Santa Fe resident Dominique Plewes, who founded the Special Operations Forces (SOF) Support Foundation to provide emergency support and privatized mental health care, among other things, to SOF members and their families.  

Plewes, whose father was in the Navy and earned a Purple Heart in Vietnam, has been working with Navy SEALS and their families here in San Diego for more than a decade. “I’ve seen what it’s like to live through multiple deployments. I’ve seen the pictures and heard the stories when the guys come back, some of them wounded. It became a very personal piece of who I am,” Plewes explains.

And as she learned more and more about the complex, dangerous work our special operators do on the ground, Plewes realized it was not SEALs alone but all SOF personnel who work under these extreme conditions. That’s why when she and fellow local Jeffrey Strauss, owner of Pamplemousse Grille, along with a few others who prefer to remain anonymous, created the SOF Support Foundation in 2017, they established a national program open to all SOF — including Green Beret, Army Rangers, Marine Raiders, Airforce Special Operations Command, and other select groups.

Dominique Plewes (third from right) in Syria with the female members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who became known as the “Daughters of Kobani”
Dominique Plewes (third from right) in Syria with the female members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who became known as the “Daughters of Kobani”

Plewes has taken several trips to the Middle East, including multiple visits to war-torn Northern Syria, which exemplifies the extreme conditions under which our special forces operate. The United States Armed Forces are made up of highly trained professionals, but special forces represent the best of the best. They are our most elite warriors, and when it comes to the types of missions they face in the Middle East, they are among the most personally difficult.

Special operators often work in the “gray zone,” which refers to activities that take place between war and peace — something that describes the situation in much of the Middle East, even in the best of times. As Plewes points out, special operators often spend years developing close relationships in the countries in which they are stationed, something especially true in Afghanistan, where we had troops for a full 20 years.

“Our phones started ringing after our exit from Afghanistan and they haven’t stopped,” says Plewes. “Many of these guys have Afghan friends on the ground who were pleading for help to get out. It’s been extremely rough, and not only on the operators but their families — especially the ones who lost a loved one.
You want their service to have value.”

Plewes’ mother, Madeleine Pickens, is the owner of Del Mar Country Club. For the last decade, the club has hosted fundraisers in support of the military, and since 2018 those events have been held to raise money for the SOF Support Foundation. The 2020 event was canceled due to COVID, but they made up for it in a big way in September 2021, raising more than $1.6 million, including a $100,000 donation from world champion boxer Canelo Álvarez, another local who also donated four tickets to his most recent fight, a TKO of Caleb Plant, this past November, which raised an additional $240,000 for the cause.

In terms of achieving the goal of putting the SOF Support Foundation out of business, Plewes hopes we as a country end our involvement in the kind of “forever wars” that see special operators overused to little long-term advantage. At the same time, she is aware that, compared to when we went into Afghanistan 20 years ago, the nature of special operations has changed significantly and will continue to evolve in the future, moving much more in the direction of gray zone intelligence and cyber activities. sofsupport.org

Dominique Plewes, founder of the Special Operations Forces (SOF) Support Foundation
Dominique Plewes, founder of the Special Operations Forces (SOF) Support Foundation
Image Credits Portrait: Photo by Vincent Knakal

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