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Meadows Center offers Operation SCUBA to student veterans this fall

Posted by Jayme Blaschke
Office of Media Relations
August 24, 2016

The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University will offer Operation SCUBA to student veterans this fall.

Operation SCUBA is a Physical Fitness and Wellness (PFW) course offered at Texas State that gives students an opportunity to earn an open water dive certification and to learn about education, team building, therapeutic resources and environmental stewardship.  

“Operation SCUBA was inspired by a group of disabled veterans who earned their open water scuba certification at Spring Lake,” Program Coordinator Rus Miller said. “Bringing the experience of scuba and experiential learning together with strong peer mentors to help our veterans be successful is what we are all about.”

Bob Vesseliza, a retired career Army veteran and contracted scuba instructor for Texas State, will be teaching the PFW course on Wednesday nights.

“I’m looking forward to having veterans come out to take the class, not only to get them involved with scuba, but to help them build relationships and find their place here,” Vesseliza said. “This course is something that can benefit veterans both personally and professionally.”

Operation SCUBA integrates diving and mental wellness techniques as a way for veterans to bond with others, develop a sense of purpose, and most importantly, receive support from their peers.

Feedback from its participants who completed the pilot course has been overwhelmingly positive.

“It’s probably one of the best things I’ve done through the Texas State Veterans Alliance so far,” said Melanie Harris. “Operation SCUBA gives you a chance to connect to all those things you’re familiar with—the safety, the buddy work, the learning of new skills, and the muscle memory.”

“It was great to just be underwater,” said Glen Stevenson. “It feels like you can escape all the noise of the city just by going 15 to 20 feet under water.”

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, half of veterans who screened positive for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder or major depression reported they had not received any mental health care in the previous year. Operation SCUBA will give students another outlet to manage stress and anxiety to help them progress at the university level and beyond, as well as, become aware of the mental health care resources and education opportunities available to them.

“Our objective is to develop a network of scuba divers and stewards of the environment that support each other and their communities,” Miller said. “We hope this course will give veterans new tools that help them grow and an experience that will provide them with opportunity.

“What sets Operation SCUBA apart from other veteran initiatives is that we can offer a continuum of care and follow-up with the participants,” he said. “It’s not that we’re just certifying participants and then showing them the door.”

Texas State students who are U.S. military veterans interested registering for the course should sign up for both PFW 1190F L12 (the lab portion) and PFW 1190F 001 or 002 (the lecture portion) in the university catalog.  To learn more about Operation SCUBA, contact Rus Miller at OperationSCUBA@txstate.edu.

About The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment

The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment was named following a generous gift from The Meadows Foundation in August 2012. The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment is dedicated to environmental research, stewardship, education and service. The Center is led by renowned conservationist Andrew Sansom, Ph.D.