Disabled Veterans SCUBA Project helps disabled veterans overcome challenges through scuba diving


The DVSP to Graduate First Class of Certified SCUBA Divers on May 2, 2010
LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. – With a mission to serve disabled veterans by helping them experience the camaraderie of scuba diving and the wonders of the underwater world, a handful of volunteer staff of the Disabled Veterans SCUBA Project have started training disabled veterans to become certified scuba divers since Jan. 17, as part of a VA-approved adaptive recreational therapy program. The training is held at the Joint Forces Training Base swimming pool nearly every week, usually on Sunday evenings.
Using an all-volunteer staff, DVSP currently has approval to teach SCUBA diving to disabled veterans at Long Beach, West Los Angeles and Loma Linda Veterans Administration hospitals, and Camp Pendleton Wounded Warrior Battalion.  The DVSP provides scuba diving instruction and free equipment use to disabled veterans, including paraplegics, quadriplegics, those diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) and multiple traumas, as well as blind and amputee veterans.  The Disabled Veterans SCUBA Project is currently accepting applications for Loma Linda and Camp Pendleton classes.  DVSP program will begin accepting applications for the Long Beach and West Los Angeles on April 18, 2010. 

For more information please contact Melvin K. Pasley at 562-421-3094 or e-mail [email protected].
The DVSP will graduate its first class of certified SCUBA Divers on May 2, 2010. 
Media are invited to cover the following events:
Apr 18                  First Ocean Dive:  Catalina at Casino Point at Avalon 10:40am to 3:15pm
Apr 25                  Dive from dive boat in Catalina Sundiver Express (Island Time) 9:00am to 6:00pm
May 02                 Graduation:  Beach Dive in Laguna Beach Crescent Cove at 7:00am
     Certification cards will be distributed at this event.
When immersed in water, paralyzed Veterans often report being able to feel areas of their bodies and a reduction of or complete lack of pain.  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Veterans state the high-focus nature of SCUBA diving helps relieve anxiety and stress. The Veterans Administration hospital is currently planning to conduct a medical study of the physical and psychological benefit of SCUBA diving on disabled veterans.
Nicolas Coster, founder of Challenges Foundation, got permission from the Greater Los Angeles VA to start scuba classes for disabled veterans at the VA hospital in June 2008.

As the lead instructor, Coster taught several scuba diving classes at a Los Angeles VA pool, assisted by volunteers, to veterans of the Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam wars. One of the volunteer scuba instructors, Melvin Pasley, a retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel and a veteran of Iraq (2006-2007), was encouraged by Coster to start a new organization to continue giving scuba classes at the Los Angeles VA pool. In February 2009, volunteers, led by Pasley, agreed to form an organization dedicated to providing adaptive scuba diving instruction to disabled veterans. In May 2009, the DVSP was established as a nonprofit organization and began teaching classes in January 2010. “First priority goes to combat wounded veterans including those suffering from TBI and PTSD,” said Pasley.
As space allows, the DVSP also offers scuba instruction to disabled veterans with noncombat related or post service injuries, he said. In some cases, the spouses of disabled veterans have been included, he added. Students in the class must buy their own mask, fins and snorkel, as well as pay for a scuba text book, Pasley said. The classes consist of formal classroom instruction and pool time during each session. Equipment, wet suits, air-filled cylinders and the cost of a chartered boat for the final class dive in open water are funded by donations to the DVSP. The city of Los Alamitos also allows the DSVP to use the JFTB pool for free. “Research has shown that [scuba] diving is good for those with PTSD and TBI,” said Pasley. Reduced depression, improved self-image, and replacement of bad memories with good ones, are some of the benefits gained from [adaptive] scuba diving, he added. “Diving helps [disabled] veterans gain a positive recreational lifestyle and new healthy activities,” said DVSP volunteer.
The Disabled Veterans SCUBA Project is currently accepting applications for Loma Linda and Camp Pendleton classes.  DVSP program will begin accepting applications for the Long Beach and West Los Angeles on April 18, 2010. 

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