ATLANTA -- When we speak of our military, we almost always hear the same word: freedom.
"They fight for our freedom."
"They're out there defending our freedoms."
But often, when those who serve come home, freedom takes on a different meaning.
"You're in pain, almost all the time," said Frank Barroqueiro, who served in Afghanistan until 2009.
On a muggy July morning, eight Wounded Warriors from across the
Southeast came to the Georgia Aquarium, seeking physical freedom,
emotional freedom -- with a little help from the water.
Said one of the Warriors, Charles Wesson, "This is the first time
I've dove, or am going to dive, since the accident. I probably would
have never done this in a million years until now."
On this day, the Warriors dove with the whale sharks. It's the same
dive anyone can pay for at the Georgia Aquarium, only with extra aides
and extra purpose. Barroqueiro, for example, continues to recover after
being shot three years ago in a firefight in Afghanistan.
"I had 12 surgeries to save my arm and my life," he recalled. "The
plane that brought me home had four caskets on it... and four inches to
the left, that could have been me."
Wesson served 13 years in the military but was hit by a car when he returned to the U.S.
"I never thought I was gonna be out of the Army," Wesson said. "I would have stayed 28 years if they let me."
Each Warrior has his or her own story, and each story goes beyond what you can see.
"Ninety percent of the injuries for our military abroad are invisible
injuries," said Susan Oglesby of the Georgia Aquarium, "And there's a
lot of stigma that comes with that. Hopefully this is a way for them
[to] identify the fact that they're gonna continue, that they are
When the dive was over, one word summed it all up: freedom.
"There's nothing restricting about what I just did," Wesson said. "It was... a good word for it was freedom."
For veterans looking for a variety of resources, check out the links on our "Hiring Our Heroes" page.