MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – An IED explosion left a soldier with PTSD along with brain and back injuries. It also cost him his career in the military. Today, he is getting a second chance.
Through the Veterans Benefits Foundation, medically retired Staff Sergeant Cliff Goble is the first disabled veteran to take part in a SCUBA Therapy Program on the East Coast.
He says being underwater is an escape from the pain and stress he suffers from every day.
"You didn't have the weight of walking or sitting or anything. I have really bad back problems and problems with my head, it was nice not to think about anything. You have other stuff to worry about, like checking my gear," he described after taking the first plunge into the dive tank at NU Horizons Dive Shop.
This program is being called "From Battles to Bubbles," and allows veterans with PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, and physical disabilities to be able to learn and be licensed in SCUBA diving.
William Furgione, the Chairman of the Veterans BenefitsFoundation, said he pulls from his own experience in the Marine Corps to help veterans locally.
He began researching the benefits of dive therapy and said it helps his own PTSD, giving him a way to relax and let the stress wash off of him.
Furgione explained that right now, the VBF is the only nonprofit organization offering the free services to veterans. He wants to expand the program.
"Let's say you're a double amputee, and you're a physical guy. You give your legs for your country. You get to wear that Purple Heart every day, but you have to look at other people walking around every day. Its kind of…'wow'. But, when you put a little air in your vest, you're just as mobile as the guy next to you," he explained.
He said the program wouldn't happen without the help from local business giving to the program.
NU Horizons Dive in Myrtle Beach provided the dive tank and equipment, while IKON Financial Group in Charleston funded the project, and the Freedom Boat Club, which will provide a boat for Goble's training in the ocean.
Goble hopes to continue the program and eventually become a certified trainer himself, training other soldiers dealing with similar situations.
While this is the first time a veteran is diving, VBF has been offering other services to veterans for over a year. This includes offering answers about their disability, locating lost records, applying for caregiver support, and helping with home improvements.
More can be found about the organization by visiting their website at www.VAanswers.org or calling 888-940-8387