You’ve probably heard the phrase “scuba diving is my therapy,” but did you know that scuba diving is actually used as a form of therapy and rehabilitation for many active and retired military personnel?
The use of scuba diving as a means of rehab dates back to 2004, according to Divers Alert Network, which reported an uptick in organizations after the veterans charity nonprofit Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) was formed. In the early days, WWP hosted an adaptive water-sports festival that allowed recovering soldiers to participate in activities like waterskiing, sailing and kayaking.
At some point, the question was posed, “Why don’t we get them scuba certified?” And the rest is history! Since then, organizations geared toward helping veterans become scuba certified have popped up all over the United States, giving more and more veterans the opportunity to take the plunge and experience the benefits of scuba. Below we have profiled several organizations around the United States to make it easier for you or a veteran you know to get started with dive certification.
Location: Montauk, New York/ Program locations vary
Mission: What started as a dive trip between friends quickly turned into an organization doing what they can to help combat divers use their scuba diving training for healing and to do good. This organization focuses on helping the marine environment through mission-focused programs like planting coral, while also giving combat veterans a sense of purpose as they adjust back to civilian life.
Location: Downers Grove, Illinois
Mission: Not only is Diveheart dedicated to helping veterans learn to scuba dive but they work to build confidence in individuals of all ages and from varying backgrounds.They provide scuba diving instruction and educational support to any person living with a physical or psychological disability.
Location: Washington, DC
Mission: This program is for service members who have a permanent physical disability that would require adaptation during scuba diving. They strive to share their passion for scuba with other veterans while ensuring no participant is exploited for commercial or political purposes.
Location: Los Angeles, California
Mission: Dedicated to empowering brave men and women on their road to recovery through therapeutic qualities of scuba diving.
Location: Primarily operates in Roatan, Honduras
Mission: Warfighter Scuba (WFS) is unique in that they offer a complete certification service to not only U.S. Veterans but veterans from NATO countries as well. Their scuba certification program is designed solely for veterans with combat wounds. The wounded veterans expenses and trip to Roatan is funded entirely by donations, bearing no financial burden to the veteran participating.
Mission: This organization has established a base in New England and is active through the Diver Archaeological Reconnaissance Cooperative (DivARC) program in conjunction with Bridgewater State University and the Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources. Their goal is to give veterans, gold star family members and active duty military members the opportunity to reintegrate back into civilian life through scuba diving.
Mission: PfDD's goal is to pay for 100% of training costs for wounded military veterans and help their spouse, partner, or relative learn to dive too. Founded in Virginia in 2009, PfDD has since established affiliate dive shops in Georgia, Illinois, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Pennsylvania and Washington.
Location: Temecula, California
Mission: To offer the unique opportunity of experiencing scuba diving to wounded American veterans. WAVES instructors have training from both PADI and the Handicapped Scuba Association (HSA).
Know of an organization we may have missed? Send us an email with their info to firstname.lastname@example.org.