On the 20th of January, 2016 I finished the last part of my two-week-long Instructor Development Course and two-day Instructor exam to become an Open Water Scuba Instructor! It was just over three years since I had started my career in diving! It was also a different anniversary for me, an inspirational anniversary. It was two years to the day since I had lost my good friend, Bill, who inspired me to try to use diving to help those who may be struggling in life!
Passing the last section of my Instructor Exam was pretty exciting! My group got together and shared high fives and hugs; congratulations were heard coming from every direction. We met up that night to have a celebratory dinner and swap stories of what had brought us to that point. In all, it was an entertaining and enjoyable evening. However, a part of me also held some sadness for a friend that was no longer with me. On January 20th, 2014 I received a phone call from a buddy I had served with in Afghanistan. A good friend of ours that had made it through the deployment with us had made the choice to end his own life. It was beyond heart breaking to hear.
It was around this time that Christine had gone to Florida to get certified as a Handicapped Scuba Instructor through a group called the Handicapped Scuba Association. Her goal back then, and now, is to start a foundation that can use scuba as a form of recreational therapy to help people with disabilities go forward in a new adventure, regain freedom and share incredible experiences with their families. Scuba has been documented as helping many people who have disabilities. We talked about this in depth and I was hooked from the very start. The military has played a big role in my life, or more so, the people I met in the military have played a big role in my life. It was inspiring to know that I could be a part of giving back to vets and their families through my passion for scuba. I wanted to help those with physical disabilities and those with PTSD. Unfortunately for my friend Bill, it all came too late. He became one of the 22 military veterans that take their own life single day. 22 per day is an unacceptable number!
In addition to the PTSD projects, scuba is also a great way to get people back into a more adventurous lifestyle. It can be physically difficult and mentally challenging which makes the rewards even more worth it. What can be limiting on land can be inconsequential or even liberating underwater! It is an activity that so many can enjoy and do together. It can be the reason for a family vacation and a way to see every member succeed–a way to level the playing field. Underwater everything can be equalized.
What started and has been building for over two years took a huge step forward on the 20th as I passed my Instructor Exam. Christine has been ready for a while, so I have been playing catch up. We are ready to keep moving with the plan but it is a slow process. It just feels good to have the forward momentum and remember why we are on this path. January 20th will always be an inspirational anniversary for me. Hopefully, I can continue to add some happy memories to the sad one and use the tragedy for inspiration to do our part to give back and help out!