PADI Members Improving the Lives of Veterans Through Diving

The PADI organization salutes active-duty military personnel and veterans across the globe along with the many PADI Members who offer dive programs to support them.

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Diving has proven therapeutic benefits for individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) and other mental and physical challenges. Recognizing the healing power of diving, PADI dedicated one of its Pillars of Change to healing and wellness, which focuses on helping others live fuller lives through scuba or freediving.

PADI Members have a long-standing history of offering dive training to armed forces personnel, past and present, to improve their quality of life, promote healing and help them reconnect with themselves and their families. Here are just a few examples of PADI Members who are making a difference:

  • Founded by PADI AmbassaDiverTM Cody Unser, the Cody Unser First Steps Foundation (CUFSF) has given thousands of individuals with disabilities the experience of scuba diving.  Since the CUFSF Adaptive SCUBA Program was founded 2001, Unser has been helping the dive industry to integrate people with disabilities into the sport.
  • Force Blue is a non-profit organization that unites US Special Forces veterans with the world of marine science and conservation. By “giving a cause its warriors, and warriors a cause,” Force Blue provides veterans with a sense of purpose while also developing an army of expertise that deploys to help restore and protect our oceans. Together with the Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF), Force Blue is currently working to physically stabilize Caribbean corals damaged by Hurricane Irma and repair CRF’s precious coral nurseries. On 6 November 2017, Force Blue released a full-length documentary, “Mercy, Love and Grace; the Force Blue Story,” that tells their story. Watch the trailer here.
  • For more than 40 years, A-1 Scuba & Travel Aquatics Center in Colorado, USA, has been dedicated to sharing the joy, excitement and freedom diving has to offer to people with disabilities. They offer an annual adaptive scuba group trip and, in partnership with Craig Hospital, they provide free try scuba experiences for those with physical challenges.
  • Deptherapy, a UK-based charity, helps rehabilitate injured service personnel through scuba diving, has enabled people like Armed Forces Veteran and PADI AmbassaDiver Chris Middleton to have a second chance at life. Despite suffering terrible injuries (including the loss of both his legs), Middleton has challenged his disability head on with the help of Dr. Richard Cullen and Deptherapy. “The thing about scuba diving is the weightlessness. There’s no more phantom pains. There’s no more PTSD flashbacks,” said Middleton in an interview with BBC Three. He is now inspiring other injured servicemen and women to take up diving.
  • Patriots for Disabled Divers (PFDD) is a non-profit organization founded by Jeff and Merial Currer, owners of PADI Five Star IDC Patriot Scuba in Virginia, USA. Bringing together PADI Five Star IDCs across the United States, PFDD has trained more than 600 wounded military veterans suffering from PTSD, TBI, amputations and other injuries, along with their family members.
  • Syed Abd Rahman, PADI IDC Staff Instructor and founder and director of Kids Scuba in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is committed to building confidence, independence and self-esteem in the lives of children, adults and veterans with disabilities through the sport of scuba diving, scuba therapy and related activities.
  • The WAVES Project is a non-profit program based in California, USA, that provides veterans and their dive buddies with training with scuba training. The organization works with military personnel with a wide range of disabilities, including brain trauma, and double and triple amputees. Watch one story of how the WAVES Project helped Sgt. Juan Gonzales USMC (Ret.) find relief from PTSD here.
  • The Ocean Enterprises Foundation, established in 2013 by Werner and Myra Kurn, is currently working with wounded veterans teaching them how to scuba dive and aiding with their transition back to regular life at home. Its mission is to ensure that no person will be precluded from diving because of physical or financial hardship.

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For more than 30 years, Trident Veteran Adaptive Programs (TVAP) has helped thousands of disabled veterans around the United States reconnect with themselves and experience adventures that will enhance their lives. To further support all divers of all abilities through its Healing and Wellness Pillar, PADI launched its Adaptive Techniques Specialty course and the associated PADI Adaptive Support Diver Specialty subcourse at 2017 DEMA Show earlier this month. The PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course provides PADI Professionals – divemasters and higher – with practical techniques and approaches proven to be effective when teaching and assisting divers with varying abilities. It is uniquely designed to educate and empower PADI Professionals who wish to make scuba and freediver training more accessible. The PADI Adaptive Support Diver course is for divers who want to learn how they can best support dive buddies with physical and mental challenges.

“We are thankful for the service of military members around the world who sacrifice so much for all of us. Through the new PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course and by sharing stories of triumph over adversity and illness that testify to diving’s healing power, PADI aims to help others to find personal transformation and healing, both mentally and physically,” says Drew Richardson, PADI Worldwide President and CEO. “The work that PADI Members do every day is about people, about transforming lives for people of all abilities. As an organization, that is our deeper purpose. That is our biggest triumph.”

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