A group of divers participating in a program that organizes recreational outings for veterans got to visit with the sharks and other marine life in the Graveyard of the Atlantic exhibit on March 9th at the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island. The veterans are all involved with Project SOAR, a program out of Wilmington, North Carolina that coordinates adaptive recreational activities like scuba diving, kayaking and surfing for veterans living with service-connected injuries or illnesses.
Program coordinator Kayla Jakubczak, who operates Project SOAR through Access of Wilmington Inc., says the group was excited to make the trip. “Diving has been one of our most popular sports,” she said. “There is a peace that comes with diving that you can’t find anywhere else.”
For about 45 minutes, the divers swam, posed for pictures and explored the underwater habitat while getting a close-up look at the Graveyard of the Atlantic’s sand tiger and sandbar sharks. Jakubczak and Patriot Dive Center owner Rob Williams accompanied the group to the aquarium to watch the dive from the dry side.
“This is my first time diving in an aquarium, and I’ve wanted to do that for a long time,” said Shandi Black after the dive. "It was really cool to get up close with the sharks.”
“It’s a pleasure to have groups like this come and dive with us,” said NCARI Dive Safety Officer Shawn Harper, who dove alongside the veterans and showed them some of the curiosities found in the aquarium. “It’s great to be able to share this experience with them.”