Waves Project gives wounded vets a chance to move pain-free as certified divers

Leanne Suter Image
Saturday, June 11, 2016
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Combat wounded veterans learn a life-changing lesson with the help of the Waves Project.

LA VERNE, Calif. (KABC) -- Combat wounded veterans learn a life-changing lesson with the help of the Waves Project.

On land, U.S. Army veteran Ceasar Ramirez is locked in his wheelchair, paralyzed from the chest down. But in the water, he's free to move however he wants as a certified scuba diver.

Ramirez doesn't take the freedom of floating weightless in the water for granted.

"It's freedom because I'm out of the chair. That's one of the things that I've been wanting since my accident - to get out of the chair," he said.

The nonprofit trains veterans to become open-water divers, giving them a chance to discover a deep blue paradise no matter their disability.

"We started it to share our passion with veterans coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq. To show them something that's fun, get them involved with our passion," founder Steve Rubin said. "What we didn't know at the time is the therapeutic values that the water brings."

From physical injuries to PTSD, diving below the surface is a life-altering experience with the zero gravity eliminating the pain.

Marine Randy Lung served in Desert Storm and suffered a severe back injury jumping out of a helicopter.

"The first moment I put the dive gear on and I jumped in the water and I felt the pressure relief of my back and all the pain was just not there anymore...it was just really nice," he said.

The Waves Project covers the cost of everything for the veterans and a dive buddy. They've trained close to 120 new divers so far, all of it paid for through donations.

The certification gives the veterans a newfound freedom, confidence and outlook on life - all beneath the waves.

To find out more about the Waves Project, you can check out their website at thewavesproject.org.