Branson, I want to deeply thank you for the opportunity of diving with VOA. The experience lived yesterday was completely out of this world and I’m very thankful to have been able to participate. I was very impressed by the preparations and skill that the dive master and dive buddies have, but most of all, the vocation that they offer to assist Veterans as well as SCI divers always with a smile. Although this is not my first dive with VOA I could’ve never imagined I would interact in such a personal and up close way with Veterans and currently in the Military people and enjoy such amazing activities, it increases our networking abilities not only narrowed to people in my type of injury (SCI) but also share happy moments and memories with the people that fought for our country and are still here to enjoy the wonders of the world, thanks to organizations like Veterans Ocean Adventures. Deeply thankful and I look forward for our next trip. Jose Lizarralde
Veterans Ocean Adventure is a great nonprofit organization that serves our veterans in many arenas. Branson Rector, founder of VOA has created one of the greatest nonprofits in south Florida. He loves serving others and bringing people together in therapeutic sport. He is a great sailing instructor, an excellent scuba buddy, efficient organizer, and an caring individual. VOA has helped many throughout the years. Thank you VOA for giving me the opportunity to scuba dive with you.
I have been volunteering with Veterans Ocean Adventures for 3 years. I started out as a novice diver and have just become a PADI instructor. I can not adequately explain in words the feelings I get when I see the joy in peoples eyes when they learn to dive. When someone gets out of a wheelchair and into the weightless world of SCUBA diving it is truly amazing! On a personal note, the friendships I have made with the participants and other volunteers are priceless! You should come see what we do in person, I promise it will change your life :-)
Hi, I am Jose P Lopez Vega a certified HSA volunteer buddy diver with Veterans Ocean Adventure (VOA). For the past 4 years this organization has provided tremendous opportunities for veterans to experience water activities up close. From Sailing to SCUBA diving, veterans gets the best experience ever. VOA is a key organization that also facilitates this activities to the handicap veterans population in the south Florida area. One on one training, and continued coaching to handicap veterans are of the foremost exceptional. Also, volunteers, get the opportunity to be certified as handicap buddy divers to go diving with a handicap divers or get certified to sail keel boats to bring handicap veterans aboard.
This organization ROCKS for how much they are able to do for veterans and physically and mentally challenged individuals. As an experienced diver, kayaker, and climber with physical limitations, I'm repeatedly impressed every time I participate in volunteer opportunities by the compassion, determination, and generosity of this group. As a donor, volunteer, and with years of experience working with non-profit service groups, this is one of the best!
VOA is a great organization. Their love for the ocean is infectious and the team quickly motivates you to share the healing powers of the ocean with them. I have truly embraced SCUBA as another form of therapy and encourage many others to try it. They provide one-on-one step-by-step lessons to accommodate any level. The members of VOA are not only there to help but they also become family. Strongly recommend this organization for individuals going through some form of therapy for PTSD/Anxiety as well as any other person looking to have fun in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area.
Veterans Ocean Adventures is probably the best, most hand-on Veteran service Organization I know. I have attended several events over the last 4 years. They have all always treated me with respect and have gone out of their way to make me feel welcomed. I hope to be able to continue to be involved for a long time with the organization.
VOA is in the ground, with the vets providing support for us in all different aspects, from recreation, to knowledge sessions, to personal development, to networking and support for other endeavors within the veteran community.
I have personal experience with all of the above mention services. I have attended several of their courses from SCUBA, to Sailing, to Rock Climbing, etc.., I am now certified SCUBA diver thanks to their amazing program and staff. I have received continuous advice on dealing with civilian life as a veteran from the staff, and I have also received professional advice and help while I was tasked to find employment for veterans.
I have been diagnosed with severe PTSD and several physical problems such as chronic back, knee and shoulder pain. They still give me the opportunity to hang out and do things to whatever my limit is. I am extremely grateful for their existence and the fact that I got to know them and their staff.
I hope to be able to become a volunteer soon so I can start giving back to some veterans what Veterans Ocean Adventures has given to me.
VOA is an outstanding organization. Before a recent deployment to Afghanistan, my family and I took advantage of a catamaran cruise for military members and families with VOA . This was an invaluable opportunity for our family to be together before being separated for a long period of time. The memory of being together on the water for a day of sailing kept me going during the challenging days of my deployment. After the deployment my wife and I took advantage of a couples cruise for returning veterans. Again VOA provided an invaluable opportunity for my wife and I to reconnect and to share experiences with other military family couples. VOA is a superb non-profit with a great mission and focus of serving our military members.
I love donating to this charity not only because our vets are underserviced in general, but also because every penny directly benefits the vets. It is an all volunteer organization, but they do have expenses, e.g., specially outfitting sailboats so injured vets can sail them. The vets love their ocean sailingtrips, their diving excursions, etc. The organization has many more inquiries than it can accomodate, so they need to expand. We can help them do that with even a small donation. I feel that even one small donation lets the vets know someone appreciates their sacrifices. Thanks to Elizabeth and Rosanna Bernstein for making me aware of this great organization.
Throughout my life I've support several nonprofit organizations and causes, none has been as personal and more worthy than Veterans Ocean Adventures. As a Veteran, I've spent years carrying for those who serve, but never really took time for myself. Now 23 years later, it's me that was in need of care.
When I met the founder of Veterans Ocean Adventures, I'd been deployed during the initial Iraqi War and three tours after that. I was frayed, hardly recognizing the person I was, broken - mind and body. Before I ever went out on the water (although he'd invite me several times), we'd talked a great deal. I finally went out for a sail and it was the most calming and peaceful time that I could remember. Just remembering that calming peace brings tears to my eyes and I can never thank the Founder enough for caring to start such a venture and his ability to see the need in those he serve as well as his and his charity’s willing to help make a difference in my life.
This is one of the most worthy charities out there because it's Veterans helping Veterans. In a VA system that is problematic, this charity definitely served me as well as other Veterans by truly showing it cares, not just lip service with a catchy sound bit. This Charity is genuine! I support this charity, not because of what it has done for me, but because I know there are many other like me that will benefit from its existence. If you are looking for a worthy cause, look no further. Take a trip, look them up and see what is being accomplished and how they are helping veteran heal and feel someone out there cares. I assure you, you will not return the same, but will have a deeper appreciation of what this organization is doing to help Veteran, love ones and family members. This organization is about healing, understanding and lessening the pain of loss. This is THE charity to support.
VOA has been a great influence on me since i left the military. VOA has given me the opportunity to continue to stay connected with my community and the veteran community of South Florida, while at the same time, allows me the opportunity to continue to serve back to the community. VOA was also a great part of me integrating into civilian life, I don't know where I would be without them!
Providing an opportunity for veterans to experience healing through the power of water is one of the most effective and best programs I have come across.
I am a career service member (over 21 yrs and still going). This is **the best** veteran's support organization I have seen, bar none. Small, professional, completely dedicated, and focused on one mission- helping veterans in need. Additionally, being a retired vet himself, Branson is completely in sync with veterans and offers a personal atmosphere to every adventure. He's a trained professional in each medium, so totally safe as well. Thank you Veteran's Ocean Adventures!
I recently met Branson Rector the founder of this non profit and I was very imipressed with his total dedication and caring for the veterans that he has wrapped his arms around. I recently began volunteering and was very touched at the first event I went to, The Gold Star Mother's Sunset Cruise and Luncheon. Branson and his volunteers prepared and dedicated a special afternoon for these Mothers who have lost a child in combat in the US Military. I could see the sadness and stress on the faces on the Mothers as they arrived, but by the time the evening had ended with the lovely sunset cruise on Biscayne Bay, I could see this stress wash away and hear so many of them comment how "Being out on the water had relaxed and given them one of the first peaceful afternoons for a long time." This is just one of the events that Voa sponsors.
My wish for the next year for VOA is for more volunteers and also more donations for VOA. I know ALL of these funds go directly toward the very special events planned by VOA to heal these Veterans with the power of water. From many of the Veterans own comments above, I can see that Branson's long hours of planning and executing and teaching all of these Scuba, sailing and other adventures are touching and changing the lives of our Veterans and their families. Great work Branson and all of your volunteers! I hope everyone's New Years Resolutions will be to touch one of these Veterans through this non profit.
I can't say enough good things about this organization (and I've seen quite a few nonprofits at work). It helps veterans with physical and mental disabilities by exposing them to the ocean and "the healing power of water." In other words, it teaches veterans to sail, scuba dive, kayak and paddle board.
It's entirely volunteer-run, and many of its volunteers are vets themselves, so they understand the unique issues veterans face. All of the activities are free to vets. And, most importantly, the people who are involved with VOA--both volunteers and participants--really form a community. (I don't think "family" is too strong of a word here.) The caring is very, very real. And it starts at the top, with the group's founder, Branson Rector, and spreads to everyone.
I work for the Department of the Army, taking care of the families of Fallen Heroes or Gold Star Families. These are the families who are mourning the loss of a Hero in the line of duty. Veterans Oceans Adventures have provided free "sunset sails" several times to conmemorate Gold Star Mothers Day every year. On the last Sunday of September each year, VOA has provided a lunch at a sailing club around Miami, and then the opportunity for the mothers to go out on a sunset sail that many describe as a way to find peace.
One of the mothers who was shellshocked after the loss of her son in Afghanistan, finally broked free during the sailing trip. Now, not only does she smile but, she can talk of her loss and she is willing to take part in other activites. I will continue to rely upon VOA for this special annual event and have become a donor, myself! Low key, specially reflective, only interested in the Survivors needs - VOA simply makes it happen.
Maddie Husta GS-11/ Survivor Outreach Services Coordinator/ 305-437-2178
I am a veteran of the United States Army who served for 8 years and completed 3 tours of duty in Iraq. VETERANS OCEAN ADVENTURES INC helped better than any other medication. The ocean calms me down, helps me sleep and give me a peaceful thought when meditating. The organization helped me to connect with other veterans with similar problems which gave me a sense of "I am not alone".
I met Branson at Health South Hospital in Sunrise shortly after having a spinal cord injury. I was feeling like my life was over and my future was going to consist of laying in bed everyday. He came to a spinal cord injury support group meeting one night and told me if you willing when can get you scuba diving. I laughed because I didn't have much use of my arms or legs, he quickly replied you can do it and we can help. I thought about it for a couple of days and thought it can't get much worse for me so I called. He arranged for me to attend a discover scuba class where I was met by Branson and a wonderful group of trained buddy divers. After a few instructions and help of the buddy divers I was carefully put into a wetsuit and given lessons on using the equipment. They then carefully lower me into the water and attached all the equipment. The minute I hit the water and the weight was taken of my spine I felt relief . They pushed me through the water and my mind opened to a whole new way of having peace. Since that day I have found a love for the water and how it puts me at peace and heals my pain and mind. Branson continues to invite me for scuba trips and I have yet to say no. Branson and his group of buddy divers allowed for me to bond with my son through scuba diving, something I thought I could never do with my injury. This is truly a great programs that helps heal, but I have forged a group of new friends, some in worse shape then me but full of smiles every time we dive.
Veterans Ocean Adventures, is "THE" organization that you want to learn about, become a part of, contribute to, and share with your family-friends-coworkers-and anyone that you talk to... Here is my story. I am a disabled Veteran (US Army Infantry, combat). I have been diagnosed with a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) from proximity to multiple concussive explosions, neurological damage from contracting West Nile Virus - damaged hypothalamus/frontal lobe/left lobe (resulting in anterograge amnesia [don't form any new memories, so at the end of the day, I know that I will awake with no recall of the day I just had. It is a brand new day, but I am lucky that I am aware that it is not the same day, over and and over again]), autonomic system is out of control so my body can not regulate body temperature - heart rate - blood pressure - sense of hunger - etc, pseudo bulbar affect (inability to control emotions), post viral narcolepsy (take meds to keep me from sleeping 22 hours a day or falling asleep if I stop moving), chronic fatigue syndrome, post viral migraine headaches, damaged ankle/knees/shoulders/and disks in the lower back, photo phobia (light sensitivity) which the Nova Eye Clinic tested me and prescribed filtered eyeglasses, PTSD, and a few other minor things that we deal with on a regular basis... THIS is where Veterans Ocean Adventures comes in. My wife was put in touch with the Veterans Ocean Adventures organization, for a sunset sailing event for military and Veterans. At the time, we spent almost every day at VA doctor appointments or in the hospital. We were desperate! That's when we met the organizations founder and one of his most trusted staff volunteer. From there, as my physical abilities would allow, I was introduced to kayaking, indoor rock climbing, sailing, and SCUBA diving! Veterans Ocean Adventures (VOA) has taken me through certification in small keel sailing skipper, and multiple levels of SCUBA certifications (Open Water Diver/Advanced Open Water Diver/Enriched Air Diver/Specialty Diver/(and perhaps the ones that make me feel the most pride) Rescue / HSA Certified Buddy Diver. I started with VOA as a patron, in need of a family. I am now a volunteer, as my physical abilities and schedule allows, for assisting fellow handicap divers when VOA is able to sponsor SCUBA diving events. Oh yes, one other VERY Important note: My Neurologist highly recommended SCUBA diving for me, after I was medically cleared to do so - especially with VOA and their ability to assist handicap divers, because SCUBA diving has some of the same beneficial effects that the Hyperbaric Chamber has for patients with TBI's! Due to costs, the VA doctors can not get all of us scheduled to get that treatment up in the Tampa VA clinics. SCUBA diving is an inexpensive means of achieving some of the same positive effects as the Hyperbaric Chamber. Please consider donating to this organization. Please help them have an uplifting impact on the lives of Veterans, their families, and other handicap individuals within our community. Thank you, and have a Blessed Day.
Where do I start. So much to say and not enough space provided. I have been down and out for so long that i thought i would never get back on my feet. injuried in the military and pretty much left out to dry by the VA back in Boise, ID has not been kind on my recovery. Moving back to Florida and finding out about VOA is one of the best moves i have made. VOA has showed me another side to life and has put me with people with similar disibilities has helped me grow. No one understand better what we are going through other than those that have been there before. I am a much better person now and have my life back on track since i have been involved with VOA. Its always hard to admit what is wrong but it is always nice to know that your not alone and with VOA you are not alone.
This organization has helped me in my own recovery journey. I suffer from PTSD and being able to go diving with a Buddy Diver, allows me to reach therapeutic goals that reduce anxiety. It allows me to around like minded people who understand and also enjoy diving and other adventures. Getting to know other people and allowing myself to enjoy the wonderful world under the water.
V.O.A has done a lot to help local vets in integrating back into their normal lives again. They have a multitude of activities which are 100% free to all military warriors and there families from sailing to scuba diving and rock climbing and kayaking and fishing there are plenty of things to do and it helps you meet local vets and make new friends and developed your team skills along with helping you cope with ptsd and TBI with proper help from the rec therapist. I have benefited greatly and have been able to be more open about everything with these programs. I also suffer from multiple disabilities including PTSD AND TBI along with 7 other. Problems. Fins them on Facebook and check out how they can help you get out of the house and make integration easy again .