A wounded veteran finds salvation through golf
After losing his arm in Afghanistan and being diagnosed with PTSD, Ramon Padilla turned to the game of golf to aid in his mental and physical recovery.
Released on 6/21/2018
I wanted to do something
to give back to this great country I live in.
I grew up here.
I'm taking, I'm taking, I'm taking, but I'm not giving back.
In the year 2000, when I was 25 years old,
I joined the US Army.
From what I have heard,
the firefight was about two hours long.
RPG blows up next to me, the shrapnel severs my arm off
and I also took round to the right side of the head
which broke a piece of my skull off.
I could see my arm, it was almost completely severed off.
It was hanging on by some ligaments
and strands of skin or whatever it was.
And I looked to the left
and all I could see was my wedding ring.
I remember just saying, God I just want to see
my wife and my kids one more time.
That's all I'm asking for.
Just to see them one more time.
And then everything just kind of quieted down in my head.
They put my arm across my chest,
that kind of calmed me down and said,
OK, even though I know lost my arm just knowing
that my arm across my chest gave me some sense of calmness.
They actually kept my ring and it was returned to me,
I want to say about three to four months later or so,
me being able to put it on now on my right hand,
it went from sad to good.
It was really amazing.
My therapist came in for the first time
and asked me, OK Ramon, what do you expect from us?
What do want to do?
And I go, Well the thing I want to do
is learn how to play catch with my kid.
'Cause I don't know how I'm gonna do it now.
I was so scared that it wasn't gonna happen.
And I mean I thought this was the end of me doing anything.
My first introduction to golf
was with this golf pro named Jim Estes,
from the Olney Golf Park in Olney, Maryland.
Early 2007 he had came down to Walter Reed
and he came down and told me if I want to come play golf.
And I go, I don't play golf.
That's a sissy sport.
Man, I want to play baseball, football, basketball,
that's what I want to play.
And so my therapist goes, Well that's on a Saturday.
If you go for three hours
to learn how to play the game of golf,
I'll give you day off during the week with your therapy.
And I go, OK, that sounds like a plan.
And I hit the ball on one hand about 150 yards
onto an island green that they had at the Olney Golf Park.
I'm like, Oh my god, I actually just did that.
And I got hooked.
When I went to Walter Reed and the diagnosis came out
that I had symptoms of PTSD.
For a little bit I did have issues.
I was getting mad, I was getting angry, I was in pain.
You know at times I would yell at my kids.
And my wife would tell me,
Do you what you just told your kids?
Do you know what you just said?
And I'd go, No, what did I?
And then she would tell me and I'd be,
Oh my god, what's wrong with me?
Those symptoms really really hit me pretty hard.
You know I can leave stuff on the golf course
and not bring it home.
Just to achieve a small little thing
like hitting the ball up in the air or making a putt.
That helps you bring back the good things back home
and build your relationship with your kids or your wife,
with your loved ones, with your friends.
I think that's why a lot of warriors like the game.
I've been very very fortunate
that my family has been very understanding
and letting me practice, letting me play golf,
letting me let them get involved in my life
on the golf course.
It's been very rewarding.
We go on Sundays after church.
And we go out there and have fun, have a good time.
We talk, we talk about school, we talk about golf,
talk about baseball, talk about music,
take a couple swings here and there, get some exercise
and I think that's what it's all about.
I've been to war.
I've seen some stuff.
But I'm not gonna lie to you,
going up to the first tee box, I get the butterflies,
I get the jitters, I mean it's still there.
And I think that's why I continue to play golf,
I get that excitement,
I get that funny emotional feeling in my stomach
and it's that feeling I think that really gets you going.
And it makes you want to do it some more.