Soldiers Dive Into Therapeutic Waters

Soldiers Dive Into Therapeutic Waters

Thousands of visitors flock to the white sand beaches of St. John annually for a plentiful dose of rest and relaxation.

But, for wounded soldiers, it's more than an exotic vacation destination -- it's a chance to get some underwater relief from the aches and pains of their injuries.

"It's enlightenment really. Because you are so weightless, I don't have the pain that I usually do. It's pretty amazing," Army Maj. Joe Claburn told ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff.

VIDEO: Scuba therapy for soldiers
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Watch "World News with Charles Gibson" at 6:30 p.m. ET to see the full report.

Claburn is one of six wounded soldiers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center who took the trip to St. John with a non-profit organization called Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba, or SUDS, which teaches wounded veterans how to scuba dive.

"You cannot walk thru the front door of Walter Reed and see our injured soldiers and Marines and not want to get involved," SUDS president John Thompson said. "It's awesome. It's just something that I know that I need to do."

The program spans from the turquoise bays of St. John to the pools at Walter Reed, where the soldiers are put through vigorous tests both above and under water.

"They get a lot of pool time at Walter Reed before we ever bring them down here," Thompson said.

The soldiers say they find the water ideal -- it's a place where they feel comfortable and can improve their strength and mobility while swimming alongside coral and tropical fish.

"Walking is this thing subconsciously where I'm kind of always worrying about the next step so I don't fall. I'm worried about how people see me," Army Sniper Sgt. Joel Dulashanti said. "But in the water it's completely different. There are no worries down there."

Like many other soldiers, he said he found that scuba diving has offered him an open, carefree space that enables him to regain his confidence. Even soldiers embarking on their first diving trip, like Marine Sgt. Greg Edwards, will admit they aren't the least bit nervous.

"It lets you know that just because you have your legs and I don't, you're not better than me," Edwards said. "I can still do the same things that you do. It does not make you feel as small as you are when you first wake up in a hospital and you're having to have help with everything you do through the day."

Weight of World Falls Away in Water

Army Sgt. Shane Heath shares the same sentiment. Heath lost both his arm and leg when he stepped on an IED while on foot patrol in Ramadi, a city west of Baghdad.

"It helps you remember that you are still a complete person, that you don't have to rely on everyone," he said. "The program is just amazing. The instructors do a great job."

One of Heath's biggest worries after his accident, he told his family from his hospital bed, was that he would be unable to swim again.

"Through this program I found that I can not only swim, I can dive and do everything else associated with that, so they are very happy," he said.

For Edwards, scuba diving has been like getting a little bit of freedom back -- an opportunity for the veterans to be self-sufficient once more.

"When you're down there like me I don't have to have help with anything underwater. I can do everything by myself," Edwards said.

"You get in the water and you've got freedom," Thompson told Woodruff. "There's a saying Bob, that water is the great equalizer, and that is certainly true for scuba diving. It's almost like an astronaut flying through space."

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