I would like to tell you about a journey that started ten months ago. I was invited to go on a dive boat to meet a man named Brad Mirman. He was starting a nonprofit by the name of Dive Warriors. I was at a place in my life that I was going to stop scuba diving even though the benefits were so great. This meant I would slowly go back on heavy medications to control my pain and on more pills to numb my brain to help with my depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.
Almost all my diving up to this point was with my friends who tried to take me with them when they could, but my being confined to a wheelchair made that difficult at times. So to be able to dive meant I had to take more diving classes with strangers. I was very hesitant to go with this new group of people because I just felt I would get excited and then be on my own again. More training then good bye. That is not what happened. The five other people there that day were also disabled Veterans and all of them were certified divers.
Brad was starting something great. A group comprised of disabled veterans who can get together and dive. This might not sound like much but I am here to tell you it saves lives. It gives us a safe place to talk and have the comradery that we lost when we left the military. A lot of us get lost in the civilian world. We are trained to hold everything inside ourselves. We are taught not to complain, but to endure. Dive warriors gives us a feeling of belonging. A place where we don’t have to say anything and everyone gets it.
For those of you reading this without disabilities it’s normal to take your wellness for granted. Why shouldn’t you? You’ve never known anything else. You have no point of reference to look back to a time when you were any different. We do. We can see and feel what our disabilities have done to us… what they continue to do to us. And that’s where Dive Warriors comes in. You feel equal when you’re in the water. Pain goes away. Stress goes away. Drifting weightless under the surface you can do the same things anyone else can do and inside this group no one sees you as anything else than whole — even if someone is missing an arm, a leg, or has a traumatic brain injury or PTSD or Multiple Sclerosis or is paralyzed.
Now I have the privilege of going out with my amazing brothers and sisters and dive once a month and to spend time with them at Dive Warriors Events in between the dives. I get to break bread with them and to laugh and sometimes cry, but that’s ok. Here we are safe. I wish I could get every disabled veteran out to dive to show them that they can find peace and friendship that goes beyond the water and that they to do not have to suffer alone and sometimes lose their fight. As for me, I won’t be one of the 22 veterans that lose their lives to suicide every single day. I now look forward to our dives and knowing there is one every month and there is a group of us that will be there for each other through good times and bad. Since that first day ten months Dive Warriors has grown. Each month more and more disabled veterans join us. I see firsthand the healing and growth that takes place within the group and I am so happy I took the chance and met such great people that have changed me forever.
Thank You Brad, Dive Warriors and all of you who support us.
— Kelly McCumisky