Purple-hearted passion

Tim Gaestel didn't have his life mapped out at 18-years-old, so he jumped into the military. September, 2001 Tim was sent overseas after the United States was attacked, ten days later, he endured a single moment that would impact his life forever.

"We were driving down ambush alley when two IDs went off on the side of the road, and I was the gunner," said Gaestel, "two pieces of shrapnel went under my vest and into my back." After recovering he rejoined his troop, however four years later he returned to Austin bearing the weight of invisible wounds of the war.

"I was lost when I got back" Gaestel said, "and so my dad told me to play a round of golf with him." Battling PTSD, Tim avoided things he used to love about Austin, almost anything that included large crowds. However his stress and anxiety disappeared once he began playing golf.

in 2013, Tim was accepted to play in the Warrior Open in Dallas. The Warrior Open is a golf tournament hosted by the George W. Bush Institute for wounded veterans to play and compete with one another. Gaestel's opportunity to play in the tournament opened another door that led him to meet President George W. Bush.

"It must have been therapeutic for him" said Gaestel, "and a way for him to interact with the veterans who served." President George W. Bush created the "Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief's Tribute," a collection of oil paintings of forty-three veterans, all painted by the President himself.

Now, when Tim looks at his old uniform with the shrapnel hole in the back, it no longer reminds him of the pain or trauma he endured overseas. Instead it reminds him that he's lucky. "It could have been a life threatening injury, but it wasn't" Tim said.

He feels lucky to be alive, that's a given, but more importantly Tim feels lucky to have found his path in life. Golf gave him a sense of purpose and passion, and now as the Head Golf Coach at Vista Ridge High School, he's helping students discover their passions too, whatever their path might be.

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