SALADO, Texas — Not only can skydiving be fun, it serves as a form of therapy for veterans in Central Texas.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports "physical activity is important to maintaining good health and improving overall quality of life."
For Ray Davis, skydiving helps. While visiting Skydive Temple in Salado, Davis remembers his first jump.
“The door opened and the wind hit me in the face and everything just was a release. Everything went away in my life. No problems. No worries,” Davis explains.
Jumping out of the plane makes Davis feel like a kid again. It gives him relief.
"I've done 20-plus years in both Army and Marines and I've seen a lot of things that people really shouldn't have seen and it’s, it's stayed with me. I've done four tours in Iraq and all four of them were just horrible,” Davis says.
He figured medication was an easy fix, but never got the relief he was longing for. That is when skydive therapy, as he likes to call it, stepped in.
“It helps ground me. If you want to talk about sky in this, it helps just calm me down. It calms my nerves. It gives me that little bit of, you know, kind of control if you will. You know because I'm in control of what I do up there to safely come back down,” Davis expresses.
Anthony Maschek, the co-owner of Skydive Temple is also a veteran. He says a veterans affairs grant is helping the team provide free jumps for veterans.
"This is extremely good for their mental health and things like that to get out of their own head to break the cycle,” Maschek shares. "We see firsthand how great skydiving is for the soldiers with their mental health and everything like that. I just went and looked what the grant required, wrote it up and gave them all the information."
According to Maschek, the grant began October 2020. It allows the Skydive Temple team to provide a certain amount of jumps each quarter, which averages to sending between 150 to 200 veterans out within a year.
Now, in the plane, Davis prepares for his big free fall before deploying his parachute.
"It helps me with my PTSD because I'm forced to process my anxiety….” Davis says. "I ended up getting off all of my medication, so I'm not medicated anymore. Probably living the best life I've ever had. My wife tells me that I'm different. Family tells me I'm different. Friends tell me I'm different"
Skydiving and peer support have helped Davis get through life one day at a time, with many more jumps to come.
Mental health resources are available for others like Davis at this Veterans Affairs link.