SWFL veteran helps others battling PTSD through sailing

Daniel Hartnell said sailing saved his life when the U.S. Army veteran was struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“I spent seven years working undercover narcotics for the Army. I had guns put to my head almost on a regular basis, so when I got out, I found it very hard to adapt to the civilian life,” Hartnell said.

Hartnell said his PTSD was so debilitating, he often did not want to leave his home, but then, he discovered sailing and a passion for working with boats.

“The benefits of sailing and doing projects on the boat was one of the big things that really helped me. It forced me to focus on a specific project, a specific task, instead of all of the things going on in my head,” Hartnell said.

The Sarasota veteran said that experience inspired him to help others in the same way, so he founded a non-profit called “Project Explore Corp” to help his heroes.

Now, he’s using his own money, including his disability from the VA, to provide these veterans, first responders and their families with free sailing and opportunities to work together.

“I started it because sailing is what saved me, so I figured if it can help me, it can help somebody else,” Hartnell said.

Right now Hartnell’s “Cayman Jewel” boat is in Port Charlotte where he spends about five to six days a week working on it with fellow veterans like Brandon Paulson, who served in the Marine Corps Infantry.

“I’m a veteran myself and I just figured if I can do something for the others, that’s a worthwhile cause,” Paulson said.

Cleve Parkhurst is another man who volunteers his time to help Hartnell renovate his boat. Parkhurst was a first responder for 20 years and said he’s happy to help others who are dealing with trauma.

“My daughter was injured in Iraq and I know the traumatic things they go through after they come back,” Parkhurst said.

Hartnell said his dream is to take a group of veterans and first responders sailing through the Northwest Passage.

“Spending time with people that understand me and showing them passion, I’d say this is the happiest I’ve been in 20 years,” he said.

For more information on Project Explore Corp, click here.

Reporter:Melinda Lee
Writer:Briana Harvath
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