KALISPELL - Many forms of therapy are available for veterans and one group in the Flathead offers a unique opportunity.
“You go down, you sit under the water and all you think about is breathing, nothing else, you hang out upside down and lay on the bottom of the pool and just concentrate on breathing and the rest of the world just goes away,” said Charles Williams, co-founder and VP of Underwater Soldiers.
Underwater Soldiers is a group for veterans in the Flathead that uses scuba diving as a form of therapy.
“It's done a lot for me. I need some ways to just un-stress, just kind of get away from the family for a little bit. And I found out being in the pool, it's really calming, relaxing. It's quiet down there and I can just close my eyes and just pretend it's just me down there. And so when I come out, I come out really just relaxed and it really just helps me get through the day and through the week,” said Underwater Soldier Seth Buckman.
This group was created by veterans for veterans as a safe place to come connect, share stories, and work through some of the everyday struggles they face after serving.
“The group we've created now, we all have at least one or two things in common. We like scuba diving and we're all vets. being able to help some of these guys and see where they've been struggling and they're getting better and that helps me,” said Williams.
The group trains in the pool but they also host underwater cleanups to give back to the community and last year, through five dives in Flathead Lake, they collected 6,200 pounds of garbage.
“That's why most of us served was to give back to the community. Most of us can't serve in any form anymore so we do watershed cleanups,” said Williams.
These watershed cleanups give veterans a chance to expand their diving experience and a chance to adventure.
“I kind of miss being an infantryman. I kind of miss having that rush of excitement and so doing diving. It kind of brings a little of that back to new things and just being outdoors and having that sense of adventure. I really missed that,” said Buckman.
The group meets at Flathead Scuba which is located at 203 Business Center Loop in Kalispell every other Monday. Any veteran is welcome to join and try diving if they have proof of service. All dive nights and watershed cleanups are posted on the Underwater Soldiers Facebook page.
“I've always had the philosophy of, you know, don't knock it till you try it. Come try it. It's free. And they're here to help us as veterans,” Buckman concluded.