NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – On Memorial Day, when we honor our fallen servicemen and women, there are some wounded warriors who also want you to think of golf.
That’s not as far fetched as it sounds. As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez explains, golf could be good for the mental health of veterans.
Teeing off isn’t always easy, but veteran Jake Kessler says 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.
He was on his final mission in Iraq 13 years ago when a bomb exploded.
LINK: Operation Game On
“I lost both my legs, one above the knee, one below the knee,” Kessler said.
Kessler was awarded the purple heart, but he struggled with PTSD – something up to 20 percent of veterans experience.
“You don’t really want to do nothing when you’re in dark places. you don’t want to reach out, but that’s really what you need to do,” Kessler said.
So he reached to fellow veteran Tony Perez, who founded “Operation Game On.”
The program helps rehabilitate wounded warriors, giving them free golf lessons and fitting them for clubs and gear.
“I know what they’ve been though. I’ve been through that. I know what they’re going through now,” Perez said.
PTSD experts say golf provides both physical and mental rehabilitation which allows these veterans to build confidence.
“Something like golf, there’s a lot of regularity, repetition, learning and it’s soothing,” said Dr. Jo Sornborger.
It also provides companionship.
“It’s given me a support group. You get out of the military and lose your support,” Kessler said.
Kessler says he’s now finding peace on the links with every swing.
Operation Game On has helped more than 500 veterans dealing with combat related injuries and PTSD since 2008.