Scuba Diving for Veterans Who Have PTSD and TBI

I am a 100% Service Disabled Veteran with PTSD and a TBI.  I am a PADI DIvemaster and I scuba dive on a regular basis.  I overheard a complete idiot telling a person that Veterans with PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injuries can’t scuba dive.  This moron went on to explain that Veterans with PTSD and TBI’s who do scuba dive are faking disabilities because of the obvious evidence that scuba diving is a stressful experience and exacerbates symptoms related to PTSD.

veteran ptsd tbi scuba divingI really hate it when people make strong statements with no actual or accurate knowledge on a topic.  It is no wonder why scores of Veterans, including the severely disabled, flock to scuba diving because of its calming and therapeutic effects on the body.  The Veteran’s Administration (VA) recognizes the value of scuba diving for disabled Veterans and has in-house programs in place to provide certification programs free-of-charge throughout the country.  There are additional programs that are directly funded by the VA.

It is no wonder that many large Veteran organizations including: The Wounded Warrior Project, Project Rebirth, Veterans of Foreign Wars and others, offer scuba diving certification to their members.  It is no wonder that one of the most popular VA Vocational Rehabilitation educational program is Scuba Diving Instruction.  The Veteran community has long known the positive effects of scuba diving for disabled Veterans.  I can’t count the amount of disabled veterans that I’ve met while diving.  The instructor who taught me Rescue Diving and Divemaster (DM) is a 100% service disabled Veteran and his primary Divemaster is 90%.  I finished my DM program with a retired Army Colonel who is also 100%.  It should be noted that all persons receiving or giving training were service disabled Veterans.

Like most Veterans, it just pisses me off when I hear people talking out their ass about what disabled Vets can and can’t do.  This moron solidified his ignorance when I overheard him say “you can’t prove PTSD and TBI- the VA just rubber stamps those claims.”  In reality, the VA denies upwards of 80% of all claims for disability.

Why is Scuba Diving so beneficial to Disabled Veterans?

I feel happy and calm when I am in the water scuba diving.  It feels completely different from swimming or sitting on a beach.  I notice significant decreases in anxiety and depression that exists in much of my daily life.  It is common for Veterans to discuss challenges with each other and I have heard many others who have the feelings.  We often feel a strong relief of symptoms for days to come after diving.  Like many Vets, I have sleep problems that have persisted for decades.  I can safely say that my sleep is much improved after diving.  A good night’s sleep has many benefits that carry forward into my life.

Washington Post article: The researchers speculate that the physical improvements may have something to do with an interaction between nitrogen, which is pumped into a diver’s bloodstream at a high rate, and serotonin, a neurotransmitter well-known for its feel-good effects but less known for its role in the spinal cord. The theory, Becker says, goes like this: “The increased levels of nitrogen will translate in your nervous system into increased levels of serotonin, and these increased levels of serotonin act on the cells in the spinal cord and the brain, which seems to improve their function.”

An expert of the John’s Hopkins Medicine research (9/2011) “But the most striking psychological impact was seen in PTSD symptoms, which decreased, on average, by 80 percent in those veterans who went diving. Escaping to a tranquil beach setting, Kaplin says, wouldn’t be enough to account for such an apparent escape from PTSD symptoms.”

“On 16 DEC 2009 a briefing was held by former Secretary of the Army Martin Hoffman in Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy in the treatment of brain injuries. During the presentation, Sec. Hoffman highlighted the need for additional funding and research into the treatment of the numerous traumatic brain injuries (TBI) from Iraq and Afghanistan by Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT 1.5). The 1.5 in the acronym represents the treatment atmospheric pressure of 1.5 atmospheres. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is a well-tested option in treating at least 13 other medical conditions.

The Army Warrior Transition Unit began scuba therapy for soldiers transitioning out of the Army who had PTSD and TBI injuries.

I hope that all Veterans continue to explore the many benefits of scuba diving for fun and therapy.  I would love to hear from other Veterans who have had positive experiences with scuba diving.  Please comment below!

Caribbean Travel Blog- Q&A With WikiAnswers

I was interviewed by Wikianswers and Answers.com about our choice to live aboard our boat and cruise the Caribbean for years in search of a new home.  It was a great interview and I decided to publish it to my Caribbean Travel Blog to allow our readers to better understand why we made our choice and what it is like to live aboard our boat.  Enjoy!Caribbean Travel Blog

Q&A with Robb Hamic on Answers.com.

Robb, you live on your boat, the Miss Lone Star, with your wife and two children. Can you tell us what life is like living on a boat?

Living on a boat with the whole family is interesting each day! The live-aboard lifestyle is fun, relaxing, hectic and chaotic all at the same time. Living in a small space with a dog and two kids can be challenging but we make the most of it. We don’t have to remind ourselves that we are living the dream everyday but our pesky kids try to give us the business, when they get the chance. We are always busy until there is nothing to do. We take the time to share some of life’s greatest moments with each other and we have grown much closer as a family aboard our boat.

What influenced your decision to live on a boat?

I had the dream of living in the Caribbean since I was a kid. I dreamed of sailing the open sea and diving for pirate gold at the bottom of the ocean. I would catch lobsters with my bare hands someday! It was a kid dream that never died, in reality. We ultimately came to the radical decision of living on our boat because of a number of factors. School violence in the US is prevalent and early childhood education is spotty in schools. We thought we could do better but why do it from a home in a suburban neighborhood? We felt guilty for having a big house, multiple cars and too much stuff that we didn’t use. It made a lot of sense to keep only what we used daily or wanted forever. We actually save a ton of money living on a boat in the Caribbean compared to our everyday life in Austin, Texas. We are creating memories that are unreachable for many people and we felt the positives outweighed the unknown. Continue reading

Becoming a Dive Master- Zero to Hero

I hit 60 dives yesterday while assisting with a class of new students.  It is hard to comprehend that I had never taken an underwater dive prior to starting my first class less just over 3 months ago.  I took the route, which is referred to as” zero to hero.  I scheduled most of my training in advance and moved from one certification to the next in quick succession.

Dive Master- Zero to Hero

A Dive Master’s day can be tiring but is truly rewarding!

I feel happy about my competency and I learn a few things in each new dive.  My skills are definitely coming up and I am proud of my pace of study.  I really enjoy working with new students and helping them to overcome difficulties underwater.  I am getting through with my dive master training program and I have only a few skills left before I will take my assessment test.  I am anxious to finish but the next few months will be filled with helping with classes, much the same as I do currently.

I descended to 95 feet on a deep dive over the weekend at the quarry.  It was a good dive but it was extremely cold, 46 degrees.  I’ve gone deep before but this was a new spot and the visibility was very low in the dark murky water.  I realized quickly that I need to invest in a new dive light that has powerful LED and lumens.

I completed my mapping project in an underwater navigational dive.  I was really surprised that I was able to get exactly where I needed to go by use of my compass and computer, through the murky water.  This was a much longer and challenging dive than others that I have done in the past.  I realized that I need to trust in the compass and pay close attention because of the low visibility water.  I figured out that I need to invest in a better dive slate.  I’ve seen a lot of divers with wrist mounted versions and I plan to get one on Amazon.com today.

I feel confident in my gear and I am happy that I got quality stuff that should last me a decade or so with good maintenance.  I realized I need a new pair of fins that fit better and has spring straps.

I decided to set goals for myself as I progressed through my training.  My next goal is to hit 120 dives before we leave Austin in July and get scheduled for my Instructor Development Course (IDC) in August or September.  I plan to get certified to teach 5 specialties at the same time so I can get my Master Scuba Diver Trainer rating at the same time.  My plan is to teach in the Florida Keys during the winter until we make the gulf crossing in December.  I think I am on track to accomplish my goals.

 

A Family That Plays Together Stays Together!

robb hamic caribbean travel blogI am truly thankful that my wife shares in my interests and takes the time to come along on most of my adventures.  It is fun to have her around and it takes the stress away from me spending time away from home to learn and do new things.  The support of your spouse can make or break achieving your dreams.

miss lone star caribbean travel blogI love learning new things and I have spent countless hours away from the home practicing new skills and or teaching.  Aubrey and I were recently married and I never thought about taking her a long when I participated in new things.  I assisted an open water scuba diving class over the weekend as a dive master in training and she and the kids came along during both days.  I’ve never brought my wife along on any of my adventures and I didn’t know how it would go.  I was worried.

I have always been somewhat of a ‘serial hobbiest’ in my life.  I embrace new strange things and I want to learn.  My quest to become a scuba diving instructor certainly seems a lot more sane than having become a tactical knife fighting instructor, in my past.  I have spent months away from home learning, teaching and traveling to teach.  I traveled to many breathtaking locations and I often wondered what it would be like to share it with my wife.  My previous marriage wasn’t happy and honestly, I don’t think we liked each other.  In my quest to find the perfect woman, I sought to find the woman whom I could take anywhere.

Many spouses don’t really care what the other does with their life.  Worst still, some spouses are jealous of the new hobby that is pursued.  I know many people who feel guilty learning new things and spending time away from home.  These are the people who don’t stay for lunch after training or who’s phone is always ringing during training.  I am truly grateful to not be in that category anymore.  I think a happy marriage is built upon mutual love, respect and yearning to be around the other person.

I was still worried that my wife and two small kids would be bored during the long training days or would somehow get in theCaribbean travel blog miss lone star way.  I am pleased to report that neither of those two things happened and that the time was a complete success.  I immediately noticed that the people in the class loved seeing my wife and kids.  How great would it be to have someone who supported you so much in your hobbies?  The kids took the opportunity to meet everyone and interact.  I don’t guess it is normal to have kids around a scuba class.  The dog had a better time than anyone.  Oh yea, did I forget to mention that we took the entire family?

Onyx is a certified dive dog and loves to be around me in all that I do.  She comes with us on the boat so we figured we would take her to the quarry we were diving in.  She ate up all of the positive attention that she received from everyone and jumped in to sniff me before I descended to the depths below her.  She whined when I was underwater and was so happy to see me when I came to the surface.

The kids made the best out of the time to explore and had a great time on the first day even though it was raining.  My wife was smart to bring their rain jackets and umbrellas.  Did I mention the 2 changes of clothes?  That too.  They have really grown to love the outdoors and we are trying to instil self-reliance.  I think anytime we give them the opportunity to be alone or together entertaining themselves is a good thing.  The kids have really attached themselves to my scuba instructor Steve (Scuba Steve) and his dive master Jason.  We’ve hung out with them several times and I am happy they are great with kids.

Aubrey took the time outdoors to catch a wild Canadian goose and several minnows.  She divised the perfect trap to catch a bass with her hands.  She guided the kids (and dog)  on several excursions including a raft ride across the quarry.  I had to laugh at the similarity to Tom Sawyer.  She became a ‘dive Mom’ by cooking hot chocolate in a big pot on top of our portable cook stove.  She made everyone’s day by adding marshmallows and cookies.  I was genuinely surprised by the her hospitality towards the class.caribbean travel blog miss lone star diving scuba

I know you’ve heard different sayings about families such as, “families that play together stay together,’ and I think it is true.  Having my family present made it a better experience.  I guess this is a good thing since I want to lead dives for many years to come.  I plan to open up a dive shop in the future and I think it will become a family endeavor.  Take your wife, kids and even dog along on your next adventure and see how it works out.  You may be surprised to see that you have a much better time.  It will bring you closer as a couple/ family.

miss lone star robb hamic captain travel blog #travel #travelblogger caribbean

Captain of the Miss Lone Star

Dive Master In-Training- What Is It?

dive master training padu scuba robb hamicI officially became a Dive Master in training yesterday when I completed my 40 required dives to enter the program.  It was easy for me to get all of the various certifications through Rescue Diver because there was a formal class and I set aside blocks of time to study.  I amassed a number of additional dives but I was still 25 short.  I think that this is a common problem for dive master candidates.

How Do You Get Additional Dives

It was hard for me to get the dives, in a way because it is just turning spring in Texas and it is cold.  On the other hand, I have a boat so I can take diving friends along to get dives in.  I went out over the weekend but the water was really cold and I only got five dives in.  I was really anxious to get my underwater time taken care of so I could officially start the program.  People who live on the ocean have a big advantage over people who live inland because the ocean is right there.  I ultimately found a warm water spring where I could live underwater for about six combined hours over the past couple days.  i was so happy when i saw dive #40 in my log book!

Start DM Training

I start my training full-throttle tomorrow.  I will be assisting with a class of open water and certified scuba divers.  There are many required learning skills that must be completed in order to take the dive master test and complete the program.  I set my sights on finishing the program in a month so I will be working hard.  During the training I will be working side by side with my instructor’s dive master.  They work together really closely and I feel like I am getting two teachers for the price of one.  I understand that a lot of instructors teach solo.

I am really looking forward to working on my program and gaining a lot of experience each week as I assist in class.  I look at my Dive Master friend Jason.  He handles so much for the instructor.  It is interesting to observe the different roles in scuba diving.  A class really moves really smooth with a  good DM.  They handle so many problems underwater, which frees up the instructors time to teach and lead dives in the training area.  Students have a lot of questions and it is hard for an instructor to be there to answer them all.  That is where a good DM comes in.  An instructor can teach a beggar class with the assistance of a DM and that is also a plus.

Dive Master Pay Sucks
ride to dive harley diving scuba master

Ride to Dive! I loaded up my Harley for a trip to the springs in my Dive Master training.

Dive Masters are a bit underpaid in the industry, from what I have seen.  There is the ability to teach Emergency First Aid and CPR classes and they can also become an instructor for underwater photography to earn money.  Otherwise a DM works for tips.  The industry standard is $10 per tank of air used, but that seems low to me.  A lot of time is spent, when you calculate the time that a DM takes out of his schedule to commute to class, teach, answer questions after and then go to lunch to do log books.  DM’s often work more than anyone at the dive spot.  Who do you think hauls all of the tanks and equipment around?

My advice for scuba students is to look to the dive master as a resource and pick their brain.  They are very knowledgable and helpful.  You’ll get more out of your learning experience.

Scubapro Knighthawk BCD User Review

I decided it was time to write a review of the Scubapro Knighthawk BCD that I purchased a few months ago.  I think this is a great BC and I would recommend it to anyone thinking about purchasing a high-end product.  I’ve used it on my last 20 dives and I am completely satisfied.

I bought this BC in my first open water class and I wanted to get a top of the line item that I could use for a long time.  It cost about $700, including my discount.  I bought it from my local dive shop and the price was less than I found online.  I liked the comfort of the BC in the showroom but I had no knowledge of how it would work underwater.

Scubapro Knighthawk BCD review

The Scubapro Knighthawk BC is comfortable, even fully -loaded.

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4 Steps- Become a Rescue Diver!

rescue diver paid become scuba emergency action plan eap course cost review

Rescue Divers respond to water emergencies

I think the Rescue Diver course is a good idea for any diver, especially the people who dive frequently.    Rescue Divers take recreational scuba diving to the next level by learning tools and techniques to help people who have problems in and out of the water.  It is a really good feeling to know that you can save a diver underwater if necessary or observe issues that arise before they cause a problem.  The course is very demanding and difficult but well worth it in the education and confidence you gain.

I remember when I took my Open Water Diver course and I noticed the more experienced people around me.  Diving is an intimidating sport and the learning curve is steep.  Experienced divers get to see a different world of scuba, even before they ascend into the depths.  Gearing up seems effortless.  They have excellent buoyancy and get the most from their underwater experience by working effortlessly.  Rescue Divers enjoy the benefits of experience combined with advanced life saving skills. Continue reading

10 Bucket List Visits For our Caribbean Travel

adventure caribbean travel blog visit destination miss lone star blog scuba diving liveaboard boat kids family relationships

Join our once in a lifetime Caribbean travel adventure!

I have had a bucket that existed only in my head since I was a kid regarding my eventual retirement in the Caribbean.  It has steadily increased over the years and I am pleased to announce that I will be checking off these 10 visits as soon as possible.  We will be underway in 4 months and we will let the ocean be our guide.  It is our pleasure to have a Caribbean Travel Blog!

1 Visit Cuba

Coming in at #1 is a long visit to Cuba.  Recently, the United States relaxed sanctions and travel restrictions for normal people wishing to visit Cuba.  I was going to spring for an education trip at the expense of thousands of my dollars before the president kindly eased the restrictions to include individuals who which to travel for any reason.  We will reach Havana, Cuba on our boat and it will be the first stop after we depart from Ft. Lauderdale.  US Airlines have no flights at this time but travelers can board foreign airplanes headed to Cuba from the United States, such as Air Canada.  US visitors can also travel to Cuba from The Bahamas or Mexico without breaking any rules.  Personally, i can’t wait to get that Cuba stamp on my passport.

2 Scuba Dive in Cuba
scba padi diving cuba caribbean travel blog

Imagine the scuba opportunities in Cuba!

I am an avid diver and of course I would want to dive on the pristine reefs that Cuba has to offer.  I have many european friends that have reported back to me over the years and they were impressed.  I am happy that Cuba hasn’t ruined most of its reefs and the tourist industry is not as big as some if its island neighbors.  I will be diving to catch many lobsters and I hear that they are bigger in Cuba.  Diving from our boat will make planning my dive trips easy! Continue reading

Becoming a PADI Divemaster

I decided that I would detail my research, experiences and process of becoming a PADI Divemaster because there is little information on the Internet from the perspective of a candidate dive master.  In doing my research, I Googled various search terms that all lead me to pages of websites selling the opportunity to become a Divemaster.  I find that it is hard to actually glean much information from programs trying to sell a service.  I asked a number of my previous instructors to give me details of the program offered through my local dive center.  The responses I received were varied and different, even at the same school because much of the program is self-paced.  I learned that the training varies from school to school, which further confuses things.  I thought that there might be others out there in the same position, thus my blog series on becoming a Divemaster was decided.

North Shore, St. Croix, USVI

North Shore, St. Croix, USVI

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