By Stephanie Stahl


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — 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.

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.

Kessler was on his final mission in Iraq 13 years ago when a bomb exploded.

“I lost both my legs, one above the knee, one below the knee,” Kessler said.

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Kessler was awarded the Purple Heart but he struggled with PTSD, something up to 20% 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 Kessler reached out to fellow veteran Tony Perez, who founded Operation Game On. The program helps rehabilitate wounded warriors, giving them free golf lessons and even fitting them for clubs and gear.

Credit: CBS3

“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 the veterans to build confidence.

“Something like golf, there’s a lot of regularity, repetition, learning and it’s soothing,” Dr. Jo Sornborger, Program Director at UCLA Operation Mend, said.

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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. You can find out more about the program here.

Stephanie Stahl