SANTA ROSA BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — A local retired Navy diver got the opportunity of a lifetime earlier this year.

The son of a navy sailor, Julius McManus joined the Navy in 1997 as a submariner, then went to diving school in 2005.

During his time with the navy, he was assigned to mobile diving salvage unit one to help repatriate the remains of WWII B-24 bombers.

“My mom’s cousin Roland who was a navy chief in Vietnam was repatriated because he was MIA, he was in a plane that had crashed into a mountainside so having the opportunity to go out and be a part of the JPAC mission in Palau for WWII remains was important.”

The experience, McManus said, hit close to home.

Mcmanus says the 2008 mission provided closure for eight families.

But in 2010, while he was with the experimental dive unit here in Panama City Beach, McManus suffered a tragic accident.

“While I was there I was stung by a stingray,” McManus said. “It was a surfing accident off the city pier and the barb broke off in the patellar tendon. We didn’t catch it in the initial x-rays so it stayed there for four months causing damage we didn’t know about to the tissue and the tendon.”

Multiple surgeries and more diagnoses later, including a traumatic brain injury, McManus was medically retired in 2019.

“It was hard. It was very challenging because I was Navy diver chief Julius McManus. That was my identity.”

Mcmanus hadn’t dived since 2017, at least until this past February.

With the help of some old friends in the area and an extreme lightweight diving system for Project Recover, McManus was able to get back in the water.

“It was amazing,” McManus said. “It was probably one of the most pain-free days I’ve had in years and it was so incredible to feel the love from deep-sea family and brothers and to have that sense of family and fraternity again… it’s more than I can put into words really.”

Nowadays, McManus participates in races across the Panhandle.

He most recently competed in the Panama City Beach Marathon and the Seaside Half-Marathon as the only wheelchair adaptive athlete.

McManus said there are opportunities here for injured service members.

The help of Team Semper Fi has made all the difference. You can find more information on our website,