On this Memorial Day, we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. But, for many veterans who have honorably served our country, there are sacrifices still being made. One organization is using golf to help heal injured combat veterans.
Teeing off isn’t always easy. But military veteran Jake Kessler said playing golf is helping him in ways he never imagined.
“You can’t just say, ‘oh, I’m injured’ and sit around and not do anything,” Kessler said.
The soldier was on his final mission in Iraq 13 years ago when a bomb exploded. He lost both his legs with one above the knee and the other below.
Kessler was awarded the Purple Heart, a United States military decoration awarded in the name of the president to those wounded or killed while serving, but he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD is common; around 20 percent of veterans experience it.
“You don’t really want to do nothing when you’re in dark places,” Kessler said. “You don’t want to reach out, but that’s really what you need to do.”
Kessler reached out to fellow veteran, Tony Perez, who founded Operation Game On. The program helps rehabilitate wounded warriors giving them free golf lessons. It even fits them for clubs and gear.
“I know what they’ve been through,” Perez said. “I’ve been through that. I know what they’re going through now.”
Operation Game On has helped more than 500 veterans dealing with combat-related injuries and PTSD since 2008.
PTSD experts say golf provides both physical and mental rehabilitation, which allows these veterans to build confidence. It has regularity, repetition, learning and it all is soothing.
Kessler said he now finds peace on the links with every swing.
“It’s given me a support group,” Kessler said. “You get out of the military and lose your support.”
For more information about Operation Game On, visit its website by clicking here.