AUSTIN — Each Veterans Day, you probably thank and honor our veterans, but a local vet said there’s something more you can do: share your passions.
For some, golf is a way of life, but for Tim Gaestel, it helped save his.
"Golf showed me what I could do again,” said Gaestel.
At just 18 years old, Gaestel, whose parents both served, enlisted in the Army.
"It was just always in my blood,” said Gaestel.
He reported for duty, ready to head off to basic training the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
"I swore in my first time, sat down on a couch and then watched the second tower get hit live,” said Gaestel.
Gaestel served in Iraq and Afghanistan. During his second tour, an IED went off, sending two pieces of shrapnel into his lower back.
When he got home, life was rough.
"Driving super fast everywhere I went, super scared of people walking over the highways, super nervous about busses,” said Gaestel. " I just had a lot of issues with being in public, going to concerts. I went to one ACL Fest when I came home, I was so excited to be back in the Live Music Capital of the World, but things were different for me. I was watching everybody's hands.”
Gaestel said he became somewhat of a recluse.
"I just kind of stayed in my house for about a year,” said Gaestel.
Until his dad asked him to play golf.
"I stopped thinking about Iraq, I stopped thinking about Afghanistan, I stopped thinking about IEDs, I stopped thinking about mortar techs, I just stopped thinking about all of that, I was worried about a little white golf ball and it was just exciting again,” said Gaestel.
Gaestel joined the elite athletes on Team 43, which includes a Warrior Open golf tournament hosted by the George Bush Institute.
"Once I realized that I could play golf again, I realized that I could do other things again,” said Gaestel.
It was a place where he connected with fellow injured veterans.
"That night a bunch of us are telling our stories for the first time that aren't our mom, aren’t our dad,” said Gaestel.
Now, Gaestel is the golf coach at Vista Ridge High school. He also earned his master's, met his wife, and aims to reach other veterans.
"Golf helped me, but find your golf, it doesn't have to be golf, it can be anything,” said Gaestel.
That's why this Veterans Day, Gaestel encourages others to share their passion, whether it's music, art, or sports, with a veteran.
"If you want to help somebody, you can just do what you already like to do, and help a vet find that,” said Gaestel.
For him, the meaning of Veterans Day has evolved over the years.
"To me, now it means looking after the vets that looked after me, and looking after the vets that are coming after that,” said Gaestel.
You can learn more about Team 43 here.