Marine environment benefits wounded warriors
By Lance Cpl. Jacob D. Barber
| Marine Corps Base Hawaii | March 22, 2013
Marines with Wounded Warrior Battalion West — Detachment Hawaii submerged in Marine fashion during a day of scuba diving at Hawaii Kai, March 17. Families and friends showed up in support of the event, as certified divers from Island Divers and Adaptive Heroes guided the Marines through scuba diving classes for a day of fun under the sea and as a means of physical and mental rehabilitation.
“This is my first group of Marines that I’ve had the opportunity to come out and work with,” said Thomas Boyles, president of Adaptive Heroes, a nonprofit organization that uses scuba diving as a therapy tool. “This really all started when we used diving as the first step in the rehabilitation process for soldiers and civilians with spinal injuries. We saw a positive impact in doing this and the results were amazing. Because of this, I wanted to work with other services and share this tool.”
According to Boyles, being in the water does two things for those who suffer from or are recovering from serious injuries. The first is zero gravity, only found in space and water, which gives the diver confidence in abilities he or she might not have on land and subsequently empowers men and women to take their mind off their injury while weightless in water.
“It really helps you actively enjoy your day and allows you to do strenuous activities that you have no confidence doing on land,” said Sgt. Steve A. Haberkorn, a wounded warrior with Detachment Hawaii. “You learn a lot about yourself as well as scuba diving in general from a staff of professionals who are very knowledgeable about being in the water, and some specialize in injury rehabilitation.”
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University began a study in 2011 about the effects of scuba diving on patients with spinal injuries. By taking a small group of veterans with spinal injuries and putting them through a four-day scuba certification course, researchers noted “dramatic” results in several areas, including improved muscle movements, reduction in post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, and increased sensitivity to light.
“Johns Hopkins is still doing many tests to answer all the whys and hows, but I believe in this, and many others do as well,” said Boyles. “We’re trying to get as many wounded warriors certified in scuba diving as we can with no charge. All they have to do is show interest in the hobby, and Adaptive Heroes will pay for 100 percent of the fees.”
When asked if he encouraged other wounded warriors to try scuba diving, Haberkorn said, “Definitely. It’s fun and the benefits go beyond just a certification. You’re helping your body and building it back up through a process that has been proven to work. My day out here went excellent, and I was able to learn all the things I can do in the water, instead of hearing what I can’t. It was a painless day with great results.”