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Reasons and Remarks - The Keys, Diving & Camaraderie

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News August 2017

In many ways, I’ve taken for granted the support of my fellow veterans, the opportunities to share, learn and reap the benefits of knowing you’re not alone.

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“When we fully understand the brevity of life, its fleeting joys and unavoidable pains; when we accept the facts that all men and women are approaching an inevitable doom: the consciousness of it should make us more kindly and considerate of each other. This feling should make men and women use their best efforts to help their fellow travelers on the road, to make the path brighter and easier as we journey on. It should bring a closer kinship, a better understanding, and a deeper sympathy for the wayfarers who must live a common life and die a common death.” — Clarence Darrow, The Essential Words and Writings of Clarence Darrow

Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) does incredible work on behalf of our members and others. Much of this work is tangible and, hence, measurable. There’s the number of veterans we represent in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) claims process, the site visits to VA spinal-cord injury centers, the guidance for architectural modifications ... I could go on and on with this list. It’s easy to point to those types of successes and say, “Look, we did that.” However, there’s something else we do in a more indirect and unmeasurable sense that has proved crucial at some point in time to each and every PVA member — the support we provide for each other through camaraderie.  

I just returned from Little Torch Key in the Florida Keys. I was there for an inaugural event called the Hero Dive. The “hero” on this dive was Army veteran and PVA member Joe Zappa. Joe was recently diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and had a dream of scuba diving with his wife, Diana, and 14-year-old daughter. With a famous musical last name like that, I had to ask Joe the question many of us are thinking: “So Joe, are you related to Frank? Frank Zappa?”

Joe smiled and said, “There’s not that many Zappas. We all came from the Palermo area in Italy, and yes, I am related to Frank.”

Along with Joe, we had PVA member Redzuan Razak, then-PVA National President Al Kovach Jr., and PVA Vice President Hack Albertson. It was an emotional trip where I made many new friends and was blessed with the opportunity to dive in the pristine waters of Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary. I must admit I had just a little bit of nervous anticipation as I prepared for this trip. I was originally certified as an open water diver way back in 1978. But I did a scuba recertification just before this trip with the assistance of one of our partners on this dive, LifeWaters. The equipment I used in 1978 was more reminiscent of something from a Jules Verne novel than what’s used today. Today’s equipment is very friendly to those of us with limited mobility, and it makes the diving experience much easier. 

I won’t go into great detail about the trip, as a documentary film is being produced to chronicle this, and PN will be creating an article for an upcoming issue. What I will say is it was an absolute pleasure to meet and spend time with Joe, his wife and daughter. In many ways, I’ve taken for granted the support of my fellow veterans, the opportunities to share, learn and reap the benefits of knowing you’re not alone. God bless you, Joe. I hope you enjoyed this adventure as much as everyone else.  

If you’re a veteran and not already involved with your local PVA chapter, I encourage you to participate. The potential benefits may just be immeasurable.

 

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Reasons and Remarks - The Keys, Diving & Camaraderie

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