Wounded Warriors Swim With Dolphins to Battle PTSD: 'They Accept You for Who You Are'
More than 30 veterans of the Wounded Warrior Project were invited to the Dolphin Research Center in Marathon Sunday to splash around with the sea creatures.
According to the Dolphin Research Center's co-founder and a Vietnam veteran Armando "Mandy" Rodriguez, the experience is meant to help veterans suffering from injuries ranging from missing limbs to PTSD.
"Every animal is magic, and they accept you for who you are," Rodriguez said, in an interview with the Florida Keys News Bureau. "That's a big deal for us warriors. Look, every wound is not a physical wound. There are a lot of wounds that can't be seen, and that's where the dolphins come in."
U.S. Army Captain Kimberly DeFiori, who suffers from a traumatic brain injury along with PTSD, was one of more than two dozen Wounded Warriors who participated in the event.
"I didn't expect the dolphins would be that interactive with people," DeFiori said, according to the Florida Keys News Bureau. "I just thought they were going to be just what they're trained to be, but they're definitely very interactive social creatures."
She explained that the event acted as a way for her and other veterans to "find new ways to enjoy life."
The dolphin encounter came after the two-day Soldier Ride, where members of the Wounded Warrior Project cycled along the Florida Keys Overseas Highway, including the Seven Mile Bridge, to raise awareness for injured veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.