Student veterans at Rutgers share their experiences as they tee off on the green

PISCATAWAY — At Rutgers University this fall, student veterans who are transitioning back into civilian life learned to golf and made some important friendships along the way, all in part due to a unique program.

Bryan Adams is an army veteran who was deployed in Iraq in the early 2000s. Now he is the assistant director for veteran services at Rutgers University.

Adams says an alarming 20 percent of veterans display signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and find it difficult to transition back into normal life.

“It’s one of those issues where if you don’t deal with it, and you don’t accept it and get help, then it’s not going to get better,” Adams explains. He helped start a golf program for student veterans where they can get outdoors and feel comfortable talking about their experiences among other vets who are more likely to understand.

“Being out here definitely helps. Being out in nature, walking around the golf course, being amongst fellow veterans, being able to talk about these types of things,” Adams says.

Student veteran Jose Jatal says the only thing he wanted to do after returning to civilian life was not talk about the military, but eventually he found not dealing with his feelings difficult. He found companionship on the golf course helpful.

“If you realize that when you go back in with people who were in your shoes, who were in the boots you were on, you start to understand that you can actually socialize a little better with them as opposed to those who weren’t in your shoes,” Jatal says.

The students got to learn how to improve their skills with PGA head professional Lisa Jensen. She says her father was a veteran.

“To be able to give back to the community and within the community, certainly, but to veterans in general, I really is an honor,” Jensen says.