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Grand Cayman 2015

Diving with Heroes took five disabled veterans on the excursion to Grand Cayman in 2015 – all had served in the U.S. Army and sustained injuries during their time in the service.


Gavin White, an above-the-knee amputee, experienced his first ocean dives ever, having only finished his PADI Open Water Certification four days prior to the excursion.


“Scuba diving allows me to be the person I have always been,” CPT White said. “I may have limits on what I can do above water, but while diving, there is nothing I cannot do.” In his training dives at a Virginia rock quarry, Gavin said visibility was just a few feet. While in Cayman, he could easily see the sea floor, sometimes more than 100 feet below.


Diving with Heroes aims to give back to our nations’ disabled veterans by providing dive experiences for injured veterans and service members. Led by executive director Jill Hottel, the team of nine traveled to the Cayman Islands for a week of diving. The five wounded heroes suffer from a variety of injuries, ranging from amputation, severe gunshot injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Liberating and serene, diving is not only enjoyable but therapeutic, and is enjoyed by many members of the disabled military community – amputees, paraplegics, quadriplegics and the blind.


Studies show scuba diving provides a unique environment with many therapeutic characteristics that can’t be replicated on land. First, the weightlessness of being underwater may relieve physical pain and may help patients exercise in a more comfortable manner. Mental and emotional benefits abound also – it’s a place where patients may be able to focus, be more in control and feel a sense of achievement.

DWH Beneficiaries: John & Sumalee Bustamante, Ernie Spycher, Matt Staton and Gavin White.

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