Scuba Diving Helps U.S. Military Veteran Battle PTSD, Reconnect With His Son

Retired USMC Sgt. Juan Gonzales diving with his son Marcus

PADI recently began touting the benefits of diving for folks who might have a physical disability or are dealing with psychological issues like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The organization supports groups like the Wounded American Veterans Experience SCUBA (WAVES), a nonprofit that teaches and trains veterans to become scuba divers, and Patriots for Disabled Divers (PFDD), an organization dedicated to bringing joy and therapy to those with disabilities worldwide.

Some of the benefits of diving that can’t be replicated out of the water that PADI touts are:

* Relieving physical pain — The weightlessness of being underwater may relieve physical pain and may help patients exercise in a more comfortable manner.

* Building mental strength — It’s a place where patients may be able to focus, be more in control and feel a sense of achievement.

* Preventing social isolation — Scuba diving is always done with a “buddy” — an instructor or therapist, and sometimes even in groups. This encourages bonding with others.

After having been deployed three times to fight in Iraq, retired U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Juan Gonzales was struggling through the effects of PTSD when he found scuba diving helped relieve some of the symptoms.

One of the downsides to PTSD was that the disorder was affecting Gonzales‘ relationship with his son, Marcus. The two were certified as PADI Open Water Divers via the Temecula, California-based Wounded American Veterans Experience Scuba (WAVES) Project. The elder Gonzales says in a PADI video:

“It wasn’t until I came across the WAVES Project that I heard more about the therapeutic properties [of scuba diving] for PTSD, for neuropathy and other types of injuries that veterans have.”

Retired USMC Sgt. Juan Gonzales and his son Marcus (Photo credit: PADI)

Scuba diving also helped Gonzales reconnect with his son:

“Diving with my son Marcus has been a great opportunity for us to connect on a level that we hadn’t had an opportunity to in the past. When we started diving it opened up a whole new world for us. It’s an opportunity for us to do something that we can share together, that we can develop together because we trust each other more and we understand the necessity that we take care of each other while we’re diving and what being a dive buddy is about. It’s given us a lot more opportunity to strengthen our relationship. It’s something that I’m very, very grateful for.”

Check out the PADI video featuring Gonzales and his son below. To find out more about the WAVES Project, check out the organization’s website at wavesproject.org.

Additionally, PADI Worldwide President and CEO Drew Richardson has launched a fundraiser to further support WAVES’ efforts. You can check it out here.