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Warfighter Scuba Dives Into Supporting Veterans With Help From BRCC Fund 

Everyone’s idea of a life change is a little different. For Nick Powers, his life change meant making a move with no more than 13 suitcases to a completely different country. 


“In 2016, I was just done with the bullshit going on in our country,” Nick Powers, founder of Warfighter Scuba said. “So I sold everything and moved my family down here [to Honduras]. At the time, I had no thoughts of helping anybody but myself. But when we got here and I started diving again, it helped me get out of my issues, sober up, and get back on track.”


Powers realized that, though his move and initial plan for life in Honduras may have been selfishly motivated, it had the potential to transform into an opportunity to help other veterans with post-traumatic stress. His active-duty service ran from July of 2003 to 2007 with the Marine Corps, and after separating, Powers continued working for the Department of Defense and Department of State until he blew his back out “for the last time.” 


Warfighter Scuba (WFS) was born out of Powers’ drive to change his own life and offers complete service to veterans from NATO countries who have received a Purple Heart or foreign equivalent and who are suffering from PTS, amputations, paralysis, etc. from wounds in combat. Since the creation of WFS in 2017, Powers and his team have been able to serve 42 veterans. WFS consists of Powers, his wife, four divemasters (five, when Powers’ daughter is home), and two instructor trainers. 


“I wish I could ship money to everyone and support everyone with trips down here,” Powers said. “If I could, I’d help everybody, but I’m broke myself. COVID certainly didn’t help things. We only ran three trips last year, but this year we’re back on track. We have one every month again this summer, so that’s a great feeling. It’s good to be back.”

Photo courtesy of Warfighter Scuba.

“This organization still sometimes feels selfish to me,” Powers said. “When I’m teaching and training these guys, I get so much out of watching their entire world open up to freedoms that they haven’t ever experienced before. Even though I’m running around like a madman every time we host veterans because I want everything to be perfect, being able to help these guys is my own version of therapy.”

Prior to coming aboard with BRCC, Jay Fain actually attended WFS and was Powers’ first amputee diver. (Until the VA highlighted WFS in a 2019 newsletter, without Powers’ knowledge, WFS received a very minimal number of traumatically injured veteran applicants.)

“Jay’s pretty capable, right?” Powers said. “But the first time we had him out on the boat, we couldn’t figure out how to get him into the water, so he just rolled out and face-planted. That was his first entry into the water.”

Photo courtesy of Warfighter Scuba.

“Seeing Jay swim, going from belly-flopping on his first entry to moving through the obstacle course underwater and literally becoming a merman, that was my ‘aha!’ moment,” Powers said.

 

 

 

“Warfighter Scuba isn’t here to just hand you a T-shirt and leave it at that,” Powers said. “We’re not taking donations and then not helping veterans. Our mission is to teach and certify wounded veterans Scuba by offering custom-tailored training and worldwide recognized certifications as a means of providing our war heroes an alternate outlet for their burdens of war. No one forgotten, no one left behind.”

The goal for 2022 is to serve 30 veterans, and Powers is already well on his way to accomplishing that — thanks in part to a $5,000 donation from the BRCC Fund. WFS is also entering a growth phase, hiring two new dive instructors, based in Ohio and Texas, while also partnering with veteran therapists to give them to ability to track mental health metrics before, during, and after the scuba certification. 

“Obviously, with the BRCC Fund wanting to help us, it’s just huge to see such a large organization wanting to sponsor us,” Powers continued. “It’s crazy that something born of my own selfishness, wanting to isolate myself, turned into me actually being able to help people. But here I am, going on five years sober, which is a huge feat. And we’ve had vets who’ve found sobriety from our trips, vets that are getting off their meds from the VA, and now these vets are going on trips and continuing relationships with the people they met during their trips here, and we’re truly growing a family. That’s kind of my whole goal with this organization.”

Photo courtesy of Warfighter Scuba.

Not only is Roatan, Honduras, one of the top-10 diving destinations in the world, but it also houses the second-largest barrier reef in the world, with conditions year-round that make it a top scuba destination worldwide. The conditions also allow for ease of training without fear of strong currents or bad visibility, letting the wounded veterans train with minimal risk and maximum excitement.

Photo courtesy of Warfighter Scuba.

WFS’ next group of veterans is three double-amputee veterans (all above the knee), so Powers will be able to test out new underwater scooters. Most recently, WFS hosted a Gold Star Family — that of Navy SEAL Danny Dietz. Powers worked with Dietz’s mother, his sister, and their family on their open water and nitrox courses. 

“Being able to introduce the Dietz family to a small part of what Danny did on teams with scuba was, without a doubt, one of the biggest honors we have ever had the pleasure of doing,” Powers said.

Thanks to the attention given to WFS by a 2019 article, WFS received an influx of more than 2,500 applications in a very short amount of time. With the bootstraps and grant-based funding that WFS operates on, requirements for applicants became stricter (currently, WFS is only accepting Purple Heart applicants). To support WFS, you can donate here, and there’s a contact form interested supporters can submit to learn how to fundraise locally. The present fundraising goal is $5 million, which would allow WFS to serve every single applicant. You can also apply to be a diver here.