Letter from Cpl. Jared Kreiser USMC
My name is Cpl. Jared Kreiser USMC. I was deployed to Iraq in 2006 with 2nd battalion, 3rd Marines. On Oct. 7th, 2006 while on foot patrol I wounded by a IED that left me severely wounded. For the next three years I would
undergo 36 operations to repair and heal my wounds. Some of the operations I had resulted in limb salvage on my right leg, 3 bone graphs, my fibula removed from my right leg and my left pectoral muscle removed.
I was approached by a fellow Marine about the Deptherapy program in December
2008. He had told me that it would be a great experience and that I would
benefit from it, wow was he right!
I had never done scuba before and I had never been to the Florida Keys, I
really did not know what to expect. I arrived in Key Largo with my fellow
Wounded Warriors and was overwhelmed by the support we received from the
town. We had a meet and greet with other wounded soldiers from Eagle Divers
at the Islander Resort and then it was off to Rib Daddy’s for a welcome
dinner. I had never seen anything like this, it was amazing food, amazing
people and amazing conversation, we were welcomed with open arms.
The next morning we received our gear and had a few get together’s and
discussed the plans of the week I was amazed again by all that was being
done for us. It was the first time in years I felt stress free and relaxed.
We were introduced to Fraser Bathgate a wiry Scotsman with a purpose. I was
intrigued by what he was trying to do for us and how he was going to
accompany our needs to dive. He never let us down, he proved that no matter
the injury he was going to make it possible to dive.
Our first day in the pool was a experience for me. It was a little rough
getting used to the underwater experience and breathing through a apparatus.
I had a little trouble keeping the regulator in my mouth due to missing
teeth, but Rick and Fraser solved that problem right away. They issued me a
full facial mask that allowed me to feel more comfortable and breathe
easier. The next day was dive day and it was amazing and I know I use this
word a lot but there is no other word for it, it was amazing! I had never
seen anything like it in my life, the water, the reef, the fish, it was a
whole other world down there. But the biggest thing I noticed there wasn’t
any pain in my body I felt relaxed, calm and strong. It wasn’t a struggle
for me to do things underwater as it is on land.
The days that followed were fantastic, diving in the morning and fantastic
dinners and events in the evening. I had the pleasure of meeting some
people that have now become dear friends of mine. I couldn’t wait to have
this opportunity again, little did I know I would get my wish.
In May of 2009 I went on my second trip with Deptherapy, Eagle Divers and
Help for Heroes. We got to meet our brothers from across the Atlantic,
British Royal Marines Steve Hands, Matt Croucher GC and Dominic Lovett. We
became instant friends with these fellow Marines who even though they served
as Marines in a different country they are not very different from Marines
here in the States. I was truly amazed by Dom, I saw him do things I could
never dream of. Dom was paralyzed from the neck down in a training accident
and you would never know unless you looked at him physically. This man was
defying all odds against him were most people would have given up he pushed
through the obstacles in front of him.
Once again I watched Fraser and our good friend Dean Vitale make what I
thought was impossible, possible. Dom was diving with the aid of a Pegasus
Thruster, his carer Marianne and his fellow Marines Matt and Steve. Dean or
as we call him Deano developed a propulsion system the Pegasus Thruster to
help divers cruise along the ocean bottom with ease. The thruster was also
used by some of our other Wounded Warriors to aid them in the water because
of their injuries.
Diving wasn’t as easy this time for us do to weather conditions and choppy
seas. It was too dangerous to dive which was a disappointment, but the town
folks stepped up to bat once again and welcomed us to the Keys true Hero
There are so many people that go out of their way to make us feel at home
and show their support for the troops and our country, but I think the towns
people of Key Largo and all over the Keys that come out to support us down
there are the most American people in the world. I think our brothers The
Royal Marines were impressed by the welcoming they received and the support
that was shown for them as well. The town threw a parade that went on for
20 miles up the coast and at random times there were people lining the
streets to show their support. The family’s that welcomed us to their
homes, The Shockley’s and Vihlen’s had amazing cookouts, the VFW and Elks
Lodge amazing dinners with the help of Steve Hands singing Elvis Karaoke.
Sharkey’s is always a great place to be for drinks, food, conversations and
just relaxing and be sure to try the Sharky Burger. Also Rib Daddy’s with
their amazing food and support for us it’s always hard to leave.
The people I want to thank most are Fraser Bathgate and Kenny Wheeler for
making this possible for us Wounded Warriors and myself. I have found a new
passion in my life and that is to dive. I never would have had this
opportunity if it wasn’t for them and I think it is a fantastic program that
in the future I want to be a part of again and again. Thank You and God
Cpl. Jared Kreiser USMC