Scott Warr, the ex-national CEO of veterans charity, Legacy, spent 22 years in the military.
Mr Warr says “it was the best 22 years of his life,” however, in recent years he has found that organisations such as Legacy are lacking to engage younger veterans which is why he has started the Terrigal Veterans Ocean Swimming Group.
“During the last five years as national CEO for Legacy, I found that there is a real problem out there with older established veterans organisations and their need to attract younger veterans,” said Mr Warr.
“In these organisations, the membership is now aging and they need the younger veterans to run it into the future.
“I think part of the problem is that the younger veterans are really doers, so they want to be involved in the community and actually help do stuff, they don’t want to sit around for three hours on a Saturday morning and chat about financials.
“So that’s where I started to think about starting an ocean swimming group to get veterans of all ages together and create a community while getting the younger veterans onboard.”
Mr Warr ran the first Terrigal Veterans Ocean Swimming Group session on Thursday, November 17th and while it was small, it was a good start, he said.
“While our numbers were admittingly limited to four of us plus a virtual swimmer, it’s a starting point,” said Mr Warr.
“My hope is to continue to grow it and eventually have big enough numbers we can add another morning in.
“We currently have two options for our swim routes, depending on the day and who is there, we either swim to the yellow buoy in front of the Terrigal Surf Lifesaving Club which is about 200m out or we do a 1.5km course around Terrigal Beach if we are wanting a longer swim.
“We then all have a post-swim coffee and chat. I hope in the future to encourage veterans who may not be swimmers to come down and go for a walk along the Terrigal coastline while we swim and then meet us for a coffee and chat at the Terrigal Surf Club Cafe after.”
Mr Warr’s goal is not just to have an ocean swimming group but to create a community among veterans who can help each other through the challenges that come with being a veteran.
“Overall, I really just want to get veterans together to reap the benefits that come with ocean swimming, such as being good for your mental health and an easy way to move the body as a lot of military people have old injuries, so swimming is a good physical activity,” said Mr Warr.
“It’s also a great opportunity to get like-minded people together who share a common background and understand some of the challenges we each go through as veterans, while being able to share stories, and reminisce about the past all in a relaxed atmosphere.
“A great example of this is we have a young man named Luke in our group and he has a variety of physical and mental health issues from his time in the service but when he is down at the group with me and others who have experienced the same as him, he really comes out of his shell, which is incredible to see and what the group really is about.
“I also have a mate of mine who is a veteran down in Tasmania who is a virtual member of the group and we now call him our Southern ambassador.
“He has had a tough couple of years and has struggled with some mental health issues but getting involved in our veteran’s ocean swimming group has been great for him. He sends us photos each week of his swim and engages with us in the Facebook Group.
“But experiences like this and Luke’s is the reason why I wanted to get veterans together, to have a connection with others and create a camaraderie for people to lean on.”
Mr Warr prides himself on giving back to the veteran’s community and not only has he done that with the Terrigal Veterans Ocean Swimming Group but he is also helping create a new initiative to get veterans involved with surf lifesaving at North Avoca SLSC.
“I am a member of the North Avoca Surf Lifesaving Club and have been for a number of years,” said Mr Warr.
“The Director of Education there is also a veteran, a young one actually, he is in his early forties and I have been working with him to get a Veterans-only Bronze Medallion course up and running as he is also keen to get more veterans involved.
“We are all set to run our first Veterans-only Bronze Medallion course in January and it will be the second one ever at an Australian Surf Club, with North Bondi SLSC being the first before Covid hit.
“We are also getting recognition of prior learning for things such as first aid which veterans may already hold, so that will help the course not be also long.”
The Terrigal Veterans Ocean Swimming Group meets at the Terrigal War Memorial on the Esplanade next to Terrigal Surf Lifesaving Club every Thursday morning at 6:30 am.
To engage with the group head to their Facebook Group.