Photo by Taylor Humby
Written by Taylor Humby. Originally posted September 24th, 2018
The Neptune Warrior project is using scuba diving activities to help recovering veterans adjust to life back in Boise. Operating out of the Boise State Recreation Center, the project aims to help transitioning vets and first responders work through issues with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and help build a community of people that each veteran can relate to.
The mission statement of Neptune Warrior, is “healing heroes one diver at a time,” and they are fighting against suicide and other issues surrounding the Boise veteran population. Program director Rob Anderson, described the number 22, and how it is often associated with the number of veteran suicides per day. This is what Anderson hopes to combat with therapeutic diving activities.
“A good majority of our veterans deal with flashbacks, nightmares, night sweats, survivor guilt, physical trauma and we have guys who have traumatic brain injury,” Anderson said. “Boise State University is a magnet for returning veterans. It's an attractive place to live and study, but you don't always outrun your demons, so we are here to fight those demons with those guys.”
Sarah Musser, a mechanical engineering student who volunteers with the project, explained the three-pronged approach to what the project does. The first step involves fitting the veterans with diving gear, and going over some of the basics of diving so they feel comfortable in this new underwater environment. The second goal is to use simple games and activities as a form of PTSD coaching.
“When you’re in that aquatic environment, triggers from different smells or sounds are gone,” Musser said. “You focus on whether you’re building the barrel of monkeys upside down, tossing a ball, or trying to balance a golf ball on the back of a spoon. It helps relax you.”
Musser explained the importance of such coaching, stating some veterans return with a feeling that they are always under a potential threat. Being in a hyperbaric underwater environment takes away such hyper sensitive feelings.
The third approach to Neptune Warrior, is helping veterans adjust back to life by creating a community of veterans and first responders that group members can relate to.
“When a vet comes back from being deployed or from their mission, everything that's constant in their life is gone,” Musser said. “Where they go to church, where they go get groceries, where they go on a Friday night, it's gone. We provide that community of people who know what you’re going through and can relate.”
James Johnston, a work-study student with Veteran Services, stated the importance of a community. Johnston said of all the changes in adjusting to normal life, one of the biggest adjustments to life back in Boise was the lack of community.
“There’s a lot of things that you haven’t had to deal with in years that all of a sudden you have to figure out,” Johnston said. “Social life is hugely different. For instance, back when I was in the service, I had a built in social life. I would see all my guys everyday. Now it’s kind of like, where do you go to meet people?”
Rob Anderson said support from the broader student community is also vital to the program’s continuing success.
“As students, there's still a lot of things that they can do for us. Our vets need support. All the gear (that we use)t is donated, used gear,” Anderson said. “It would be awesome if we could get a community here at Boise State to go either raise funds or find equipment for us to use here at Boise State.”

View the article on The Arbiter's website.
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