Provided by Patriots for Disabled Divers
Patriots for Disabled Divers (PFDD) has teamed with the Georgia Aquarium to provide adaptive diving experiences for injured veterans. Since 2016, PFDD and the Georgia Aquarium have partnered over their shared vision to improve the lives of wounded veterans through the therapeutic benefits of scuba diving. On Sept. 13, PFDD and the aquarium’s Military Salute team led six veterans on a once-in-a-lifetime dive in the Ocean Voyager exhibit. This tank features over 50 species of marine wildlife, including stingrays, green sea turtles, goliath grouper, and manta rays. However, the celebrities of the exhibit are the aquarium’s two whale sharks. Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world, reaching up to 60 feet in length. Though colossal, these giants feed on tiny organisms called zooplankton and pose no threat to the divers.
The participating veterans included a mix of diving experience, ranging from several years to newly certified. None had previous dove with whale sharks. While experiencing exotic wildlife is one of the program’s perks, the most significant benefit to the participants is the socialization it provides injured veterans who are often isolated by their service-connected wounds. Furthermore, a growing body of research suggests that scuba diving offers therapeutic benefits for many injuries, including PTSD and spinal cord injuries. These benefits are often subtle and easily missed by the casual observer. However, the evidence suggests scuba diving provides a simple, effective method for improving the lives of injured veterans. Through partnerships with organizations like the Georgia Aquarium’s Military Salute, PFDD continues to support healthy veteran communities through adaptive diving.