I’ve been part of Diving with Heroes since their first excursion in August 2014. I went on that first trip as a volunteer, thinking I was going to be helping wounded or injured veterans to scuba dive as a means of rehabilitation or recuperation. Boy, was I wrong!
I found by volunteering to help other veterans, I discovered a safe place for myself.
Many of our hero divers not only are coping with physical injuries and chronic pain but PTSD or TBI. Nearly to a person, they (and I) found being underwater to be incredibly soothing, pain free, a peaceful place in a turbulent world.
Our groups are small, usually 10 – 12 total divers. That sized group creates a warm, embracing dynamic that allows us to open up with fellow veterans who are on similar struggles. Our most recent trip to Little Cayman’s CCMI was a great example of the deep friendship and love we develop for each other over seven short days. Open, honest talk amongst our group of hero divers and volunteers. These friendships that continue to grow months after the trip concluded.
While we experience some of the best diving in the world, we also learn about the marine life in the Caribbean. From coral blight and the important research being done by CCMI and others, to the huge negative impact the invasive lionfish is having on marine life. Our hero dives participate in the mission to protect our oceans by helping build and maintain underwater coral nursery’s at CCMI, cull lionfish (they are great in fish tacos) and participate in other research activities.
Diving with Heroes provides life changing experiences for me and our veterans. Many came on their trip as newly certified or with minimal experience. After the trip, a large number of our hero divers continue to dive and add new certifications and skills. They have gone on to become rescue divers, master divers or instructors. They do this because through DWH in particular, and diving in general, we have found a soothing, peaceful and pain free place. We care deeply about each other and about preserving our oceans.
Scott is a PADI advanced scuba diver and an HSA dive buddy, working towards rescue diver. He’s a 22-year Air Force veteran with multiple deployments/TDY’s to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Afghanistan and Iraq and many other places. Scott also serves on the DWH board of directors.