Last August, Joe Brickey (’85) and his daughter Jill Brickey Hottel (BS ’04; MS ’10) led a group of five wounded veterans on a 12-dive scuba trip off Grand Cayman Island.
“I am a driven person, always looking for the next challenge,” says Staff Sergeant Jade Sharrocks, who was awarded the Purple Heart in 2004 for injuries sustained in a vehicle-borne suicide bombing in Iraq. “I may have limits on what I can do above water, but while diving there is nothing I can’t do.”
The trip to Grand Cayman was funded by Diving with Heroes, a nonprofit that Hottel and Brickey started in May, with Hottel as executive director and Brickey as a board member.
“We were looking for new avenues to give back,” says Hottel, a program analyst at Integrity Applications Inc. in Chantilly, Virginia, where Joe is chairman and CEO. “He’s a diver. I’m a diver. A lot of the people in our company—more than 150 out of 600—are divers, and 37 percent are former military people. We wanted to combine these two passions and histories.”
Many wounded veterans receive dive training and certification at eight dive centers around the country through grants from the Wounded Warrior Project. The goal of Diving with Heroes is to ensure that these veterans’ rehabilitation and recreation don’t end with their certification as divers, but rather becomes a part of their lives.
Hottel has been diving for fifteen years. She became a SCUBA instructor in 2007, a PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) Open Water Instructor in 2009, and an HSA (Handicapped Scuba Association) instructor in 2011.
“I am so grateful to Diving with Heroes for setting this up and making this trip happen,” said Staff Sergeant Tom Altersitz, a veteran of three combat tours in Iraq who was diagnosed with PTSD. “Soldiers want to excel. It’s in their nature. Diving is a sport where we can excel despite our injuries. We are injured soldiers, not broken ones.”