Jeff MacKinnon is a second-generation diver and treasure hunter who operates a dive team in Cape Breton. One of his partners - retired US Recon Marine, Dan Griego - has helped recruit fellow veterans to their project -- recovering treasure from the ocean off Cape Breton Island.
“Our team is US military veterans,” says MacKinnon. “They were trained to accomplish extremely difficult missions with considerable personal risk. Once you’ve lived with that kind of adrenaline, returning to normal life is very difficult. Diving provides the kind of focus and intensity they are used to, which helps them transition to civvy life and cope with PTSD.”
MacKinnon and his team are working with PTSD specialist Dr. John Whelan of Halifax. Dr. Whelan provides counseling services to the veterans and documents the results of the program. One of their goals is to expand the program to other service personnel from Canada and the US who suffer from work-related trauma.
“It would be great to have both Canadian and US veterans working together,” says MacKinnon. “Not only will it build new relationships, but these folks are all service people, and being able to serve helps with the healing process.”
The purpose of the dive missions is to recover lost artifacts from the many historically-significant shipwrecks that dot the Cape Breton coastline. MacKinnon hopes to partner with the Nova Scotia government on the project, and eventually establish a museum in Sydney to house some of the recovered items.
MacKinnon and his partners also plan to produce a reality-TV series based upon the adventures of the dive team. The show is in the early stages of development, and has a working title -- Operation Recovery.