For SSG George Jordan, the game of golf has helped the retired Army veteran reclaim his life.
Twenty years in the U.S. Army and multiple deployments for operations in Panama, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq left Jordan in chronic pain – physically and psychologically.
“I retired in 2004,” said Jordan, 54, who lives in Lorton, VA. “And my body kept deteriorating. I was dealing with chronic pain in my back, knees and shoulders. I couldn’t continue to exercise, run or jump. It got to the point where I lost interest in physical activity, which made me gain a lot of weight and I got depressed. I didn’t want to be around anyone.”
“Then I started playing golf,” Jordan said. “It helped me integrate back into a social climate. It allowed me to get exercise at my own pace. It helped relieve the anxiety and expectations that people have of you when you play in team sports, and the expectations that you have of yourself. It made me look forward to getting out again, enjoying nature again. It helped me regain my self-confidence and find the desire to live again and enjoy life.”
It’s why the anticipation of having a dedicated practice facility for wounded warriors is so exciting for Jordan and his peers, as Warriors on the Green (WOTG), a nonprofit, volunteer organization, hopes to break ground next year on a six-hole, par 3 course at Fort Belvoir Army Base in Virginia. Partnering with Greg Norman Golf Course Design (GNGCD), WOTG’s first facility will include the six-hole course and an indoor practice facility that will be open year-round for instruction, practice and play for wounded and disabled veterans.
“We are very excited to be a part of the project and most importantly, to do our part in giving back to our servicemen and women who put their lives on the line for our country,” said Chris Campbell, senior Vice President for GNGCD.
WOTG said the first facility at Fort Belvoir was selected because of the large population of wounded veterans rehabilitating in a Warrior Transition Unit there. Wounded, injured and disabled soldiers spend at least six months of rehabilitative care at WTUs. But while the therapeutic golf program at Fort Belvoir has been a success, the current facility cannot accommodate larger numbers of wounded warriors.
“We are all about getting warriors to come out and play,” said retired 1SG T.A. Henry, who has first-hand knowledge of how golf can turn a veteran’s life around. Injured by an Improvised Explosive Device in Afghanistan, Henry suffered from a traumatic brain injury and a ruptured shoulder that required reconstructive surgery and pain meds.
“It was, and still is, pretty difficult to reintegrate back into everyday life,” Henry said. “Golf helps ease the mind. The camaraderie, the drive, the people, everyone out there is on the same wave. You’re out there chasing that little ball, trying to get on the green. It’s just like life. You’re trying to get the best shot possible. If you end up in the rough, you keep trying to get back on the green. You take it one shot at a time. That’s how I treat life now.
“That’s why it’s so important to me to spread the word and share that with other veterans, who feel so lost,” said Henry, who is a board member of Links to Freedom Golf Foundation, a WOTG partner. Links to Freedom was formed to implement rehabilitative programs at military and civilian golf facilities nationwide for wounded warriors and disabled veterans.
While such rehab programs are crucial, having a dedicated facility would be key to the movement’s growth because many veterans are first time golfers who don’t know much about the game, both men said. The dedicated course would help expose the game to more veterans, who may have difficulty walking regular courses or navigating sand traps.
“Sometimes, when you’re out there amongst regular golfers, you feel that pressure to move faster because you’re worried that you’re holding up play,” Jordan said. “To have a dedicated course would allow wounded veterans to play and build up confidence without feeling rushed. You wouldn’t feel intimidated. You wouldn’t feel inferior. You’d just be able to enjoy the game.”
WOTG plans to build 10 or more multi-hole facilities on U.S. military bases over the next five years. But to do so, each facility, from inception through construction, will cost approximately $1.5 million to build, said WOTG Chairman Jeff Foulk.
As the CEO of a family-owned defense contracting company, Foulk has devoted his time to give back to the same servicemen and women that his company aims to protect. “It’s not enough to send our military into battle with the tools to survive,” Foulk said. “It’s even more important to help those brave men and women adjust, adapt and survive once they come back home with battle scars. For many of these men and women golf is truly the answer.”
You can join WOTG’s effort and help these veterans by donating today!