A Virginia organization used the game of golf to support veterans and their families dealing with issues from post-traumatic stress disorder to missing limbs.
“We’re there to just help any wounded, ill, injured service member; Gold Star family members,” retired 1st Sgt. Tony Henry said.
Henry served in both Operation Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom during his career in the Army. When he returned home, he learned being tough couldn’t erase what he saw. Fifteen soldiers in his battalion died.
“Emotional-wise, I was in a bad place because I lost a whole lot of soldier,” he said.
But he found Links to Freedom, a nonprofit golf program for wounded warriors and their families.
Steve Greiner started the Fort Belvoir Wounded Warrior Golf Program in 2008.
“I spent a lot of time training those teachers so that they can learn how to deal with someone who has balance issues because of traumatic brain injury or maybe has a loss of a limb,” he said.
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Professional golf instructors also work with doctors and therapists to learn how to teach players who suffer from PTSD.
“You know post-traumatic stress is not the same thing as just being upset that you’re not playing well, so that was the biggest challenge,” Greiner said.
Through learning the game, brave men and women begin to heal.
Families are also welcome. Gold Star spouse Ursula Palmer started playing after her husband was killed in Iraq.
“I came with my family and I was able to meet others who’ve gone through worse things than me,” she said.
The program means much more than just playing 18 holes, she said.
“I’ve heard several times that Links to Freedom has saved someone’s life,” she said. “How much is worth for you to save one life, and if you have it in your power, why wouldn’t you do it?”
Henry knows invisible wounds are just as deadly as physical ones.
“Help the other 22 that are contemplating suicides and the 11,000 that have failed the attempt on suicide, and help them come out and see, ‘Hey, man, we have something better for you,’” he said. “Let’s build that camaraderie on the golf course.”
Reported by Leon Harris, produced by Michelle Montgomery and edited by Scott Eisenhuth.