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Paraplegic Veteran Finds “Connection” With His Body and Mind Through Skydiving

paraplegic veteran

A paraplegic veteran has found a new sense of freedom through skydiving. 

Alex Dillman lost the use of his legs in 2011 when he was in Afghanistan on his second combat deployment. He said the injury was “instantaneous.” An IED blew up, and when he woke up the next day, he all of a sudden “had to depend on everybody to do everything” for him. 

The trauma from the experience also left Alex with PTSD and depression. 

Alex Dillman in Afganistan

“Over the process of therapy and getting back my life, I decided to pursue hobbies. One of them being scuba diving, hand-cycling, and then I found skydiving, and that really helped me fill the void,” he said in a YouTube video

It took years for the veteran to develop the skills and method needed to perform solo jumps, but he’s now able to skydive independently. 

“[In] some weird way… the universe has offered me this opportunity,” Alex told Fox News. “I was capable of doing it on my own was all I needed, and it sent me on this wild trajectory.”

Alex Dillman before a jump

Paraplegic Veteran Helps Others Cope With PTSD Through Adventure Therapy

Using skydiving to help cope with his injury, depression, and PTSD is a form of adventure therapy. Not only does it give him a rush of freedom, but it also reconnects him with his body. 

“[The] great thing about skydiving is that it gets me out of the chair,” he said. “I don’t bring my chair with me, so I’m in a free state. I don’t need to be in the chair to perform the act of skydiving.”

“Through the act of free fall, I have a much better connection with parts of my body that I wouldn’t normally have those neurological connections with,” he continued. “I can feel my legs and my feet to a certain extent. I can get a better sense of my overall being, feel what my legs are doing, feel what my hips are doing. Having that feeling again… even if it’s for 30 seconds or 60 seconds… is enough for me!”

Army veteran in free fall

After having unimaginable mental and physical rewards, Alex decided to devote his spare time to helping others like him have similar experiences. So he joined the adventure therapy non-profit called Skydive First Project. The Tampa-based organization helps people cope with PTSD and depression with tandem skydiving, kayaking, rock climbing, horseback riding, scuba diving, and hiking. 

“I’m proud to be part of Skydive First,” he said in the YouTube video. “I feel that it will allow me to share this experience with other veterans that are still kinda looking for that action, veterans that wanna be independent and a bit more risk than normal therapy would offer them.”

You can find the source of this story’s featured image here.

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