JUPITER, Fla. — Approximately 500,000 men and women who served in the U.S. military over the last 13 years will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Scuba diving is helping some of those veterans cope.
"Freedom, I guess, is the word. For me, being in the chair in the water, totally free," U.S. Marine Corps veteran Hack Albertson said about his experience with scuba diving.
Albertson is paralyzed from the waist down after a snow tubing accident decades ago. He said his true healing began when he started scuba diving with the nonprofit LifeWaters.
"To me, it's a life-changer, especially, for someone who has nothing to look forward to. And I think for veterans, you reach a point where, why keep doing this? You know? Why keep doing this? That's what this program changes," Albertson said.
Charley Wright and Matt Wilson founded LifeWaters about eight years ago. Since then, they've helped veterans in almost every U.S. state by adapting to their needs and training them to scuba dive.
"They end up pain-free for days, where normally they're taking pain medication three and four times a day," Wilson said.
"It's a great way to get away from the demons or whatever that might be," Wright said. "A lot of guys are physically banged up inside and you just don't see it."
Albertson has participated in at least 300 scuba dives with LifeWaters. He's been to lakes and springs across the United States, and his most memorable dive was at Pearl Harbor.
"I'm sitting on the memorial, sun setting, and the USS Missouri is over here and the sun's going down. It was so surreal to be there," he said.
"We want to make sure they have a memory in their life that's incredible, and they all come back. They can't wait to dive again," Wilson said.
Albertson said he plans to dive for the rest of his life and continue appreciating the feeling of total freedom.
"How lucky am I to be doing that, you know, and all that happened because I happened to get paralyzed," he said.
LifeWaters is funded through donations and grants. Click here to learn more about the organization.