Veterans get underwater learning experience of a lifetime

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GREEN BAY, Wis. This weekend area veterans got a chance to learn how to scuba dive at no cost to them. Veteran support organization, H.O.O.A.H teamed up with Green Bay Scuba to give veterans an underwater learning experience of a lifetime.

Veterans learn the basics of scuba diving at the Lineville Intermediate School pool

Free programs offered by H.O.O.A.H isn't offered just for veterans to learn new fun and exciting skills. It's also about allowing veterans to be together, giving them a bonding experience and a platform to share their stories.

"It's more apt for a veteran to really talk about their experiences with other veterans, so this community building for them, it's really a support system for them too,” said Tammy Hardwick, H.O.O.A.H Wisconsin Chapter President.

Eight veterans put on diving gear and spent their weekend under water. Their scuba instructor, Al Pahnke, is also a veteran.

"It's a basic scuba diving class,” said Pahnke. We teach them how to descend down to 60 feet, teach them how the equipment works, and we teach them how to handle an emergency if something should happen under water.”

Training wrapped up Sunday afternoon, and veterans say, it's an opportunity they never thought they'd get to do.

"Well I've always wanted to try scuba diving,” said Michael Marquette, an Army veteran living in Green Bay. “It was just not something I had an opportunity to do."

"When we’re together we talk about our different service, our different opportunities, and basically share information to help each other,” said Army veteran, Jim O’Neil. “This is a great program to show the support of the community, and as a veteran we really appreciate the opportunity.”

Some veterans say scuba training even reminds them of their military training.

"It's like a lot of army training,” said Marquette. “If you keep your mouth shut and you listen to what your instructors are telling you, and you rely on your equipment, you won't have any problems. So far so good. Everything's been going well and everybody's having a lot of fun."

After veterans complete the scuba certification, they'll receive an equipment kit so they can continue pursuing the underwater hobby.

“It's not just an event for them, it's something that they can take long term and use as a stress relief," Hardwick adds.

Veterans who want to participate in free H.O.O.A.H programs, like scuba diving lessons, can e-mail in a nomination for themselves. To look at programs available by H.O.O.A.H can click here.