BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The Veterans Empowered Through Scuba project was started by Eric Shimmon, president of Aqua Nut Divers in 2017 to help veterans cope with mental or physical disabilities from serving.
“In the water, we spend 35 minutes to an hour depending on how much air everybody has,” said Greg Paulsen, one of the four veterans participating in the program.
During that time, military veterans can focus solely on their surroundings, deep in the water.
"It’s hard to shut my brain off, it always wants to run. To think. So, getting in the water getting in the pool. It makes me focus on one thing. It gives me a chance to relax and feel weightless and free,” said Paulsen.
Paulsen spent eight years in the Navy. After leaving the military in 2013, he found his life to be stagnant. He was used to coming from so much structure, he wanted to find a new hobby after saying goodbye to his past.
“Some veterans find it hard to find that community again, and as you can see the community is definitely here,” said Paulsen.
Schimon said that this program is a way of giving back to veterans.
“It was something we felt we needed to step up and care for these men and women because they truly are American heroes,” said Schimon. “They signed up knowing they can come back with disabilities and some of them did, and now we can give back to them.”
Schimon said the veterans will take part in five classroom sessions followed by five pool sessions before heading off to Catalina Island where they’re required to do four open water dives with an instructor.
“There’s a lot of beautiful things out there. These guys are gonna be able to experience octopus underwater,” said Schimon. “Crabs underwater. Lobster. Giant seabass that way 400 lbs. You see something like that. You forget about anything that’s happened in the past.”
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