KALISPELL — For some veterans struggling with injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder, it's all they can do to keep their head above water.
But sometimes, the answer is below -- at least that's what a Flathead nonprofit has found with therapeutic scuba diving.
The Underwater Soldiers nonprofit in the Flathead Valley is dedicating its time to help those who served the United States with scuba diving while also providing a community to veterans.
“Having dived once before, I kind of knew what I was walking into, but I found out how relaxing it was and I was able to put everything else aside and focus on diving,” said Seth Buckman, a veteran who served in the US Army for five years.
Buckman has been coping with his traumatic experiences during his service by diving with the nonprofit Underwater Soldiers. It's an organization created to give veterans a splash into therapeutic scuba diving, as well as helping the veterans form a community.
“It gave me a chance to sever the whole chaos going on inside of my head, so helped me refocus and over the months I saw a drastic improvement at home,” said Buckman.
Buckman and other veterans use their time in the pool all very differently, but Buckman has his own routine. “I go negative buoyant, I sit at the bottom of the pool upside down and I close my eyes, and I just kind of just focus on breathing."
The water also provides benefits for those with bodily injuries, according to Underwater Soldiers president Shawn Weisz. “You're taking the pressure off joints [and] limbs...from physical injuries; from a damaged experience through combat and non-combat situations, “ said Underwater Soldiers president Shawn Weisz.
Weisz says the diving also helps the veterans cope with brain injuries and even post-traumatic stress disorder, they may have developed during their service. “When you're underwater, you're really focused on your breathing you're not so much focused on what you've been through."
He added that helping the veterans overcome their own hardships gives him confidence the therapy is working. “It’s the most rewarding thing I've ever done. I have a lot of respect for veterans obviously, and being able to give back when a lot of them have given so much to us. It means a lot to me personally."
Weisz and the Underwater Soldiers are hoping to give back to the community by cleaning up the local water features.
“What we were working towards doing this summer is clean up dives and we're going to give back to the community. We're going to dive in places like Flathead Lake, Whitefish Lake -- all around to the watershed -- and try to do clean up dives around locations like boat launches and that sort of thing,” said Weisz.
The Underwater Soldiers dive every other Monday at Flathead Scuba and welcome other veterans to join the group free of charge. Click here for additional information.