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Blue Water Therapy

Self portrait Image of Grant Monaghan on a boat at sea

After an elite Special Forces career, Soldier On collaborator and Maritime Warrior founder Grant Monaghan is helping veterans find solace through wind, water and waves. 

It’s little wonder the Navy was Grant Monaghan’s choice when he decided to join the ADF. Since he was a young lad, Grant took himself to school on a 12-foot Evinrude along the Gold Coast’s waterways, earning the local moniker of tinnie-rat: boating’s equivalent of surfing’s grommet.  

After his career in the military and at the age of 52, Grant’s come full circle, back on the Gold Coast waterways, this time taking up to a dozen veterans on his 40-foot racing yacht, RUN AMUK. He starts his day with a talk about his own unique military career, encompassing two of Australia’s most elite units, the Special Air Service Regiment and the Navy’s Clearance Diving Branch. 

Starting as a sparky (electrician) and working largely in the hot bowels of a ship, one day on deck Grant saw his future fly by in a rubber dinghy. “I saw these guys in speedos and straw hats with M16s slung over their shoulder tear by and the Chief said, “They’re clearance divers.” That’s it. Grant’s mind was made up. He was going to be a clearance diver (CD). 

Grant passed the arduous, year-long clearance diving course, posting to a diving team and preparing for SASR selection, a typical pathway for CDs back then. But with the raising of the 2nd Commando Regiment to take over the Counter Terrorism capability with embedded CDs, Grant would have to wait for a restructure, so he transferred to the Army and continued his pilgrimage, something he says through gritted teeth and a grin. 

Typical of Special Forces soldiers, Grant is blunt when it comes to what he did while posted to the Regiment. “Did some fantastic stuff; was involved in eight operations and went overseas operationally with great people,” is about as much as you’ll get out of him. 

During his transition, Grant decided to put his family first. “I came back from one deployment and was getting ready for the next but was on an operational pause. I had two little girls and I thought it’s time to see them grow up.” 

With great openness, Grant recounts the difficulty of his transition to the soldiers on the boat, with today’s crew largely still-serving members of the 2/14 Light Horse Regiment. Some of his observations are pragmatic. “When I got out, I noticed my fitness was going downhill,” Grant tells the crew. “I know you guys hate PT,” he warns. “But you’ll really miss the opportunity when you’re out.”  

Grant talks about his lack of connection to the community, the difficulties and how he found sport and community with the Army Reserves. But it was while he was invited to work at the Soldier On Recovery Centre – an organisation that assists soldiers who are either wounded, injured, or ill (or both) to regain their whole-person wellbeing — that Grant made an observation that changed the course of his life.   

“I noticed every time I took a cohort (of soldiers) near the water, their spirits lifted. No matter where they were in life from being injured warriors wanting to get back online to another with multiple challenges and being separated medically from the ADF, one thing echoed in all. They seemed happier, had more energy, were more positive and more optimistic; they simply started to become better models of themselves when on, in or near the water.” 

My love for the water married perfectly with this. He recognised a gap in the welfare space, and with his passion for the water it married perfectly hence the launch of the Maritime Warrior Project, he set out and helped buy a yacht with about 40 other plank owners and socially conscious investors. I decided to start the Maritime Warrior Project, so I set out and bought a boat. Maritime Warrior and Grant’s boat, Run Amok, is berthed at Runaway Bay Marina and regularly collaborates with Soldier On for veteran events. 

These days, the Maritime Warrior Project is growing, with more veterans and veteran charities using Grant’s project to support veterans and their families. 

“There’s nothing better than seeing a veteran and his family come out. At first, they’re closed and reserved and look stressed. By the end of the day, they’re laughing, happy and connecting with others after a day on the sea.” 

“The sea heals,” says Grant. 

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