Avid divers know that scuba diving is therapeutic, but a number of U.S. nonprofit organizations are picking up on the theme, and are introducing wounded warriors to a whole new definition of “therapy.”
These organizations, like Scuba Warriors based out of Washington State, and Diving with Heroes, which is based out of Virginia, are unlocking the underwater world for veterans who have defended America’s freedom, and who may be having a hard time transitioning to life back at home.
Through these programs, service members are trained and certified, and then taken to some of the most remarkable sites around the globe to enjoy a little bit of that underwater calm and bliss.
A recent news story out of Virginia, which chronicled the diving trip experienced by veteran Dani Figueroa – a soldier who signed up for military service after 9/11 – brought attention to the new phenomenon and its positive effects.
Figueroa got certified and was taken on a trip to the Grenadines in the spring of 2015 through Diving with Heroes.
Orchestrated by Jill Hottel, the organization’s Executive Director, the trip was one of many that Diving with Heroes plots out for wounded warriors. They plan expeditions regularly for the iconic diving sites located in the Grand Caymans, Petit St. Vincent in The Grenadines, and beyond.
For Figueroa, according to the story, the experience was transformative. Diving, like being in service, gave the newly certified crew a mission. It was a freeing experience that allowed Figueroa, (and hopefully other service members along for the trek), to finally feel “out of uniform.”
The concept of using scuba diving as a means of therapy for military personnel isn’t necessarily a new one. The idea first appeared in 2004, mainly because a group of avid divers wanted to get involved in helping former servicemen and women truly feel like they returned home.
Working with the nationally recognized Wounded Warrior Project, there are now a number of organizations, dive operators, or other charitable projects that are designed to help veterans and servicemen get “back to normal” via a truly otherworldly experience.
It’s a concept that seems to be doing a lot of good. Hundreds of servicemen have been enlisted into these local programs across the country, and have returned from their tour of underwater duty with a less stressful outlook on their transition to civilian life.
And the word is spreading about how effective this treatment can be. In fact, Diving with Heroes premiered a documentary on their endeavors entitled ‘Sixty Feet of Freedom’ on Tuesday, February 16th in Herndon, Virginia.
Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba is another organization dedicated to helping returning soldiers and veterans learn to scuba dive for rehabilitation and recreation.
And though every local wounded warrior diving organization is different, every single one has the same needs.
There’s a massive call-out for dive instructors and donations to help answer the steadily growing demand.
More than 47,000 service members were wounded between 2001 and 2011, and even when a handful of these veterans reach out to a local diving charity, it’s still a bigger number than can be possibly handled.
Check out Diving with Heroes, or do a quick Google search to see which organizations are based out of your area, or which frequent your favorite dive spots.
Through these efforts, the inherent joys of scuba diving are shared with new divers who truly need it most.
Have you been involved in any diving-related nonprofits? Let us know in the comments section!