Veterans who return home after serving can have a long and difficult road to recovery, but one nonprofit is helping veterans find emotional and physical therapy just off the coast of Southern California.
Dive Warriors is a nonprofit organization founded by Brad Mirman. The organization teaches veterans how to scuba dive and takes them out to the ocean once a month.
"If you’re a disabled veteran in the Southern California area, we will teach you how to dive, we will get you certified, and you come on the boat and Dive Warriors pays for it all," Mirman said.
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Mirman is not a veteran, but he gave up his career as a screenwriter to grow Dive Warriors after what he saw in veterans who came to the organization.
Dive Warriors: Helping Disabled Veterans Recover Through Scuba Diving
"A lot of them when they come … there's a darkness in their eyes, there's a broken spirit to them," Mirman said. "As they immerse in this group … bonds form, and that light comes back in their eyes."
Jared Lemon is one of the veterans who says that diving makes him feel free. The 35-year-old from Temecula lost his arm while deployed in the army, but once he is underwater, he can no longer feel the phantom pain.
"It helps release them demons, all them negative thoughts and the things that stay with you after war," Lemon said.
Being part of Dive Warriors has even brought some veterans back from the brink.
Kelly McCumisky is confined to a wheelchair and suffers from PTSD. The first time she took a dive, she had planned never to come back up.
"My whole experience was to commit suicide and that nobody would figure out that that's what I had done," McCumisky said.
Now, like Lemon, McCumisky feels free when she is underwater.
"That’s the time I'm free, out of this chair and feel like everybody else," she said.
These veterans also find comfort in each other and being around people who can understand them.
"I needed a group that could understand me and I could understand and feel safe in," McCumisky said. "These guys do that for me."
Kyle Schneider, a Navy veteran, said that being part of Dive Warriors "brings us into becoming an overall family."
For more information about Dive Warriors, visit their website.