There’s nothing better than the feel of the sun on your face, the smell of salt water in the air and the breeze blowing through your hair. For some veterans, hitting the open seas in a sailboat could be exactly what they need.
The Bayfront Maritime Center of Erie, Pennsylvania, already serves some veterans through its volunteer-run EASE (Erie Adaptive Sailing Experience) program, but now it’s ramping up its efforts to reach out to even more through its new Veterans EASE program. Bayfront Maritime Center Executive Director Rich Eisenberg told Ron Leonardi of the Erie Times-News that they will partner with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the VA Hospital in Erie, to provide healing experiences to former service members.
Only 40 percent of returning veterans in the Erie area make appointments with counselors, and of those that do, only 40 percent return for a follow-up visit. Eisenberg thinks that sailing could prove more therapeutic for veterans than a visit to a counselor’s office, especially given the success of a similar program, Veterans On Deck, in Charleston, South Carolina. Veterans EASE will feature year-round programs that focus on not only sailing, but also boat maintenance and building activities.
The center also plans on helping participants find employment, too. “Right now, there’s a 20 percent shortage of skilled workers in the maritime industry,” Eisenberg told Leonardi. “That’s projected by the U.S. Coast Guard to go to 35 percent in 10 years, because a lot of the personnel are retiring. These are excellent, high-paying jobs, and veterans are well positioned to be filling these positions because of all their military training.”
Sounds like a day of sailing could lead to a full-fledged job for some Pennsylvania veterans.