by John Bell
Representing the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, eleven men recently entered an underwater realm of reefs, wrecks and sharks off the coast of Bimini where they maneuvered freely and for a moment, left troubled memories and disabilities at the dock.
Veterans at Bimini Bull Run
For the avid diver, it’s an endless debate on the top dive destinations, but what is not in debate is that Bimini consistently ends up on that list, and that the historic Bimini Big Game Club and Resort offers one of the best dive experiences in The Bahamas, an archipelago of 700 islands sweeping across 500 miles of open ocean.
'Bimini has no shortage of great dive sites: Reefs, Wrecks, Walls, Drift Dives, our famous Atlantis Road and truly amazing Shark and Wild Dolphin Encounters - you name it,' said Michael Weber, General Manager of the 51-room Bimini Big Game Club Resort and Marina where the veterans stayed. 'We’re also providing unique dive encounters early in 2014 with the elusive Great Hammerheads which annually congregate off our shores in Bimini.'
Vet Encounters Shark
Tiny Bimini, with some 1,500 permanent residents, was a short plane ride for the special unit of veterans departing from Fort Lauderdale. The flight, aboard Tropic Ocean Airways’ new Cessna Caravan Amphibian was a great start to the diving adventure.
'These were brothers and it was a privilege to provide them with the transportation,' said Tropic Ocean partner and founder Rob Ceravolo, a Navy Top Gun-rated fighter pilot. 'Divers 4 Heroes is an outstanding organization and I was happy to be part of this trip.'
Founded in Key West in 2007, the non-profit Diver 4 Heroes organization (www.divers4heroes.org ) has served hundreds of warriors with all levels of abilities. It’s goal, according to Debbie Twillman, co-founder and executive director, is to introduce the gravity free environment of our underwater world to all warriors who have been injured—mind, body or spirit—with the use of SCUBA.
Veteran Scuba Diving
'The therapeutic value to this type of program for wounded warriors is priceless,' said a Purple Heart Wounded Warrior.
Working with dive operator Scotty Gray of Blue Iguana Charters and his team, Divers 4 Heroes provides all levels of instruction and training for certification.
'No gravity, no ache, no pain….I’m freeeee,' wrote one Purple Heart recipient, who sought relief and a better quality of life through SCUBA.
Vet Encounters Shark
In Bimini, the group enjoyed the recently opened Bimini Bull Run (www.biminibullrun.com) at-the-dock shark cage encounter and several offshore dives, encountering a variety of Reef Sharks, Triggerfish and Sting Rays.
'It was indescribable being in the water watching these beautiful, huge animals feed and interact with other sharks, and these amazing warriors swimming with them,' said Twillman, a DiveMaster from Lakeland, Florida.