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Paraplegic Veteran Soars High, Finds Freedom in Skydiving Therapy



Quick Smiles:

  • Army veteran Alex Dillman, who became a paraplegic after an IED explosion in Afghanistan, has found a unique way to reclaim some of his lost abilities.
  • Through skydiving, Dillman experiences a sense of freedom and concentration that he hasn’t felt since his deployment days.
  • He’s now part of the Skydive First Project, a non-profit that uses outdoor adventures to assist individuals suffering from PTSD and depression.

In the aftermath of a life-changing event, Army veteran Alex Dillman found himself grappling with a new reality. After an IED explosion in Afghanistan left him a paraplegic, he had to redefine his life.

However, he discovered an unlikely activity that has allowed him to reclaim some of what he lost.

Soaring through the sky at a blistering 120 mph, Dillman doesn’t require his wheelchair or even his legs to skydive. In this unique state of freedom and concentration, he’s “expected to perform,” a mindset that he confesses he hasn’t felt since his deployment days.

Dillman spent years developing a method of solo skydiving without the use of his legs.

“In some weird way… the universe has offered me this opportunity. I was capable of doing it on my own. It was all I needed, and it sent me on this wild trajectory,” Dillman shared.

Originally, Dillman viewed adventure therapy as a means to combat the depression and PTSD he suffered from after losing his abilities. Little did he know, it would also help him regain some of those abilities.

Now, Dillman is part of the Skydive First Project, a non-profit organization that uses outdoor adventures to assist individuals grappling with PTSD and depression. Based in Tampa, the organization offers a variety of activities including hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, horseback riding, scuba diving, and tandem skydiving.


“The great thing about skydiving is that it gets me out of the chair,” Dillman explained. “I don’t bring my chair with me, so I’m in a free state. I don’t need to be in the chair to perform the act of skydiving.”

He added, “I can feel my legs and my feet to a certain extent. I can get a better sense of my overall being, feel what my legs are doing, feel what my hips are doing. Having that feeling again… even if it’s for 30 seconds or 60 seconds… is enough for me!”

Dillman’s story is a testament to the power of determination and resilience. His journey serves as an inspiration to all, proving that even in the face of adversity, one can find new ways to experience joy and freedom.


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