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Honoring our Nation’s Heroes for Veteran’s Day

November 11, 2015

Honoring our Nation’s Heroes for Veteran’s Day

Written by Sophie Gaze, Dive Immersion Senior Divemaster

In the Dive Immersion Program at Georgia Aquarium, we place an important focus on providing recreational therapy to our nation’s wounded heroes through our Veterans Immersion Program (VIP). This aspect of our program is very near and dear to our hearts considering the enormous sacrifice that these individuals make on behalf of our country’s safety and freedom. About once a week, we host a military group for a dive or a swim in our Ocean Voyager habitat built by The Home Depot, allowing these participants a chance to escape and achieve a sense of peace in our watery world. This part of our job is very rewarding, as we often see a dramatic transformation in each soldier’s spirit after their close encounter with our beautiful creatures.

This Veteran’s Day, I am particularly excited to share my experience with another side of the active military that does not necessarily get as much attention, although it is equally deserved. About twice a year, our dive team has the pleasure of hosting an underwater naval reenlistment. These brave sailors have completed their term of service and, on behalf of their comrades, their families and the citizens of this country, they commit to another term in the U.S. Navy. This ceremony is not taken lightly, and a great deal goes into making sure that this event is conducted in a manner that upholds the significance of the oath.

Our U.S. Navy divers before the reenlistment ceremony

At Georgia Aquarium, our underwater reenlistments are profound experiences for our staff and guests who have the opportunity to witness this momentous occasion in a sailor’s life. The reenlisting sailors and their officers don full-face masks and perform the ceremony in the gallery window of our Ocean Voyager Theater. As the sailors take their oath, the communications are broadcasted throughout the gallery. The public in the theater can hear what is being said underwater, enabling them to be a part of the experience as the sailor swears his oath to the commanding officer.

Our most recent ceremony was particularly unique because the United States flag was brought underwater, a practice that is typically strictly forbidden. However, because the sailors were participating in an official ceremony, they were able to include the flag in the reenlistment. There is something truly magical about hearing a sailor take his oath while whale sharks and manta rays surround the divers and the United States flag! The audience was very moved, and at the conclusion of the ceremony everyone joined in to sing our national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner.

Divers in Ocean Voyager after the reenlistment

This year’s group of Navy divers joined us on a particularly special day, as it was also our first Military Monday at the Aquarium. This newly established promotion, courtesy of The Home Depot, grants free general admission on Mondays to active and former military members and veterans from October 26-December 28. We kicked off this amazing promotion with a color guard performance and a display of equipment to encourage our guests to join us in celebrating our military personnel.  It was an awesome day and the Dive Team was honored to be a part of the recognition of these courageous men and women.

Ringing in the celebration of Military Mondays

 Keep up with us on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about how Georgia Aquarium is honoring our nation’s military heroes for Veterans Day and year-round!


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