My journey began when I was Open Water certified at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in 2007. Zach Machuga, a Navy Corpsman, was my instructor and early dive mentor and we have kept in touch over the years. I returned to GTMO three more weeks over the next two years and each visit I had the opportunity to dive with active duty service members stationed there.
This was a life changing event in two ways. First, it provided a glimpse into the sacrifices our service members make providing the freedoms we all enjoy. Second, it launched a nearly obsession level love of scuba diving. I loved the serene, gravity free marine environment where most of the incoming stimuli from land was removed. I found diving to be equally as challenging for my mind as it was calming for my soul.
In October 2013, a coworker at my "land" job, an Army Veteran, Walt Hartnett, suggested that I share my love of diving with veterans. People around the table saw the twinkle in my eye and the wheels starting to turn. The seed was planted for Liquid Therapy Diving. I wanted to remove any financial barrier for students as well as reach as many people as possible. I knew there were already great scuba organizations conducting training for disabled veterans. I decided to focus on the larger population of veterans, who might not otherwise qualify for free training. I recognized I would need help in this mission.
In February 2014, I approached Wayne and Jason Fisch, from Diveseekers in Hillsborough, NJ with my idea and asked for their help with my instructor training. Diveseekers became my first corporate sponsor and supports Liquid Therapy Diving with the use of the indoor pool and classroom facilities as well as gear. Liquid Therapy Diving would still be a figment of my imagination without them.
In June of 2015, I passed the PADI Instructor Examination and in August I certified the first veteran. I will always remember that day as the one when my vision came alive.
Until now, this project has had limited funding, so donations are very welcome! My hope is that by creating Liquid Therapy Diving, Inc. I will be able to expand the number of veterans able to be served.