Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Congressman Allen West Leads Veterans on Patriotic Scuba Dive

Left, right, or center, you have to love this.

The congressman and his dive buddies planted an American flag on an artificial reef and highlighted efforts to provide therapy and new skills to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

The shipwreck of the Ancient Mariner, about 60 feet deep off Deerfield Beach, received a patriotic decoration Sunday courtesy of U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation, and about a dozen military veterans.

West and his dive companions briefly put up an American flag on the deck of the popular artificial reef, then posed for photos and videos, as several dozen civilian divers — and numerous fish — watched. The flag flapped proudly in the strong southerly current.

The ceremony was part of June’s “Learn to Dive” month established by the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau to encourage locals and tourists to take up scuba diving. It was also an opportunity for military veterans — both newly-certified and experienced divers — to have fun underwater.

“I think it’s important wherever we are, that the flag flies,” said West, a 22-year veteran Army officer and experienced scuba diver.

His dive buddies heartily agreed. They are veterans of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps with multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and some have taken up scuba diving to relieve post-traumatic stress disorder. They received training through Veterans Ocean Adventures based at Shake-A-Leg Miami’s Coconut Grove sea base.

“I try to find the veterans who have gotten out and plug them in,” said Veterans Ocean Adventures president Branson Rector, who served as a lieutenant colonel in the Army. “. . . This is the kind of training they’re used to — task-oriented, and it’s peaceful and relaxing underwater.”

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1 comment:

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