Grand Strand veterans cope with PTSD by swimming with stingrays

Published: Mar. 23, 2022 at 5:53 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 23, 2022 at 5:55 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Ripley’s Aquarium is one of the only places in Myrtle Beach where you can get up close and personal to stingrays by literally getting in the water.

Five years ago, retired Vietnam Veteran Lou Krieger read a news article about a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder group scuba diving at their local aquarium, so he reached out to Ripley’s where they’re celebrating their partnership.

“The first time we came here there was a little bit of reluctance from some of the guys because we’ve never done anything like this before,” said Krieger.

The group is made up of a variety of military veterans, both men and women.

Krieger has helped coordinate the event over the years and describes being in the water as an alternate universe.

“You immerse yourself into another world,” said Krieger.

Nearly 70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their life, which can trigger Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

PTSD can occur for many different reasons, the majority are due to combat missions during their time in the military.

“It’s something that doesn’t go away you have it for the rest of your life,” said Krieger.

Over the years the group has created new relationships with the instructor, stingrays and other veterans.

Which includes their instructor Shannon Hughes who was also in the Air Force.

“This opportunity is absolutely amazing,” said Hughes.

To celebrate their partnership the group honored three instructors with commemorative plaques, thanking them for their service and helping cope with PTSD.

“These sessions have been so great,” said Krieger.

He says this outlet has helped a lot of people in the support group and encourages anyone going through their own issues of PTSD to find help.

“There’s plenty of comrades out there willing to reach out and give you a hand and help you out,” said Krieger.

They also hold other events such as golfing at TopGolf and horseback riding in Murrells Inlet.

The Myrtle Beach PTSD Support Group meets every Thursday.

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