Dave Fitzgerald began his diving career with WAVES Project in 2018, his chosen dive buddy was his son Alex. After his Open Water Certification, he began volunteering and continuing his dive training. Dave has worked his way up to the level of Dive Master, helping train other Veterans and leading fun dives to keep them in the water. He learned about the WAVES Project while volunteering at the Temecula Vet Center for an open house event where Veteran Organizations came to share their programs with Veterans. “I was helping the organizations set up their booths/stations and there is where I met Waco who introduced to the WAVES Project. I was so excited that I was going to be able to finally accomplish one of my lifetime bucket list items! SCUBA diving has always been on my bucket list as far back as I can remember; maybe since I was 12-13 years old. It just took me 46 years to finally get there. I have snorkeled around the world where ever deployments took me and I’ve always wished I could stay down there longer”.
Dave was born and grew up in Cleveland Ohio. He joined the U.S. NAVY in July 1990 as an E-1 enlisted. He served until February 2013, when he retired as a Chief Warrant Officer 3. He worked as a Propulsion Engineer, always working in the engine room with all associated equipment. Everything that had to do with getting the ship through the water, making electricity, and making fresh water. When asked why he decided to join the military, he responds “In High School, I felt like I just wanted a fresh start and kind of get away from issues and trouble in my life at the time. The Navy was a way to do that.”
While serving he earned his Bachelors of Science degree from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island and married his wife of 29 years, Veronica. They have 3 children together, Katelyn, Alex & Katrina. Dave now works as a mail clerk for USPS in Lake Elsinore CA. Alex and Katrina are also certified SCUBA Divers. Dave is proud to say “Katrina did her 50th dive alongside me on my 200th dive on the HMCS Yukon in San Diego.”
When asked why he became a dive pro and what his future goals in diving are, he says “I would say it is a natural progression. I do not like to be stagnate in anything I do. In the military, I have always wanted to take the next step, get that next qualification, get that next promotion. In SCUBA I am driven with the same kind of motivation. I want to continue to learn and be the best I can be. Recreationally I want to dive new and exotic spots for as long as I can”. “Professionally my short to mid-term goal would be to earn my Instructor certification and teach and certify new divers. In the Navy, I had two different instructor tours and out of all the jobs and duties I had during my military career, that was my BEST job satisfaction job. Sharing my knowledge and skills with students and seeing them progress and grow. Throughout my naval career, I’ve had prior students remember me and just say thank you. I want to be able to impact people’s lives for the better by teaching them how to SCUBA dive.”
His comment on inspiring other Veterans to get involved in diving is “I’ve said this several times, when I talk to others about SCUBA diving who seem to be kind of uninterested. The thought that goes through my head is; what do you mean you don’t like pizza? To me Pizza is AWESOME and everyone should love it, and in my opinion the same goes for SCUBA diving.”
Dave loves to take pictures while diving. “It documents the things I have seen and the places I’ve been. It also allows me to share the beauty and the wonder of the underwater world with others that may be thinking about learning to SCUBA dive or those who may never get the opportunity to SCUBA”. His favorite dive site? “I would have to say UNDERWATER!!! But to be more specific, my favorite local beach dive would be Shaw’s Cove in Laguna Beach, CA. By boat, anywhere around Catalina Island. My favorite dive place so far, Cozumel Mexico.”
How has being a part of WAVES Project affected Dave? “In my heart, if I could volunteer 100 hours a week for the next 10 years, I would NOT be able to repay the WAVES Project for what they have done for me. I have had SEVERAL once-in-a-lifetime moments that I would not even thought possible before I started SCUBA Diving. My favorite, most memorable moment was conducting my 100th SCUBA dive on the USS ARIZONA National Monument with the National Park Service Underwater Resources Center team. Who else in the world can say they did that? If there is a list, I’m sure it is not that long and thanks to the WAVES Project, I know I am on that list.”