Retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Justine Constantine, a lawyer by background, volunteered for deployment to Iraq in 2006. His team was attached to a Marine Infantry Battalion in Al Anbar Province. One October day, they went out on a routine combat patrol when he was shot in the head, behind his left ear. “I am only here because of a young Navy Corpsmen who saved my life that day.”
Constantine spent only five weeks in the hospital, and outpatient lasted about a year. Overall, he had twenty some surgeries. It was during this time period that he didn’t like leaving the house. “I was confident growing up, I played a lot of sports, I had a good career, but looking the way I did, it bothered me after a while. Going out was troublesome for me and I didn’t enjoy it.”
Although he had played some golf before his injury, he really didn’t get into the sport until afterwards. “Golf was a big part of my recovery,” he said. “The environment helped. I could go out during the week when no one was out there and no one was looking at me, it was great.”
“Just being able to think about chasing that little white ball around… not what I look like, not what was going to happen next, not about the next surgery, or the next 10 surgeries, or all the junk that comes with our long recoveries… it was a big difference for me.”
The benefits of being outside, being in nature, looking around and enjoying life propelled Constantine to get into golf more. “Golf looks so easy on tv, but it’s not. Disabled Sports USA gave me a grant for some well-needed golf lessons.”
In 2009, Constantine started participating in a number of clinics and golf tournaments, including ones hosted by Lockton and Former Members of Congress. “I’ve played in a number of Warfighter Sports golf tournaments. Those are fantastic. That’s a way for the wounded warriors to get out there and get a chance to hit the ball together and meet other people that care about how we are doing. We don’t have all those opportunities a lot. So, for me, these golf tournaments, thanks to DSUSA, have made a big difference in my life.”
The Fairfax, Virginia native practiced as an attorney in government service for 15 years and left his position at the FBI in 2013. He moved to New York City a few years ago and decided to pursue a career as an author and inspirational speaker. “I didn’t set out to be a speaker,” he said. “I kept being invited.” It started out as a side job and he focuses on topics that are part of his story such as change, leadership, and adversity. “It takes an incredible amount of work to be an entrepreneur,” he admitted, particularly in such a competitive market.
In 2015, he published a book entitled My Battlefield, Your Office: Leadership Lessons from the Front Lines, which was also because of demand. “I just restructured content and information I already had.” Earlier this year, he also co-authored From We Will to At Will: A Handbook for Veteran Hiring, Transitioning, and Thriving in the Workplace in partnership with the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) which focuses on placing veterans in employment.
He has a number of other irons in the fire as well. Constantine serves as a “Hire Our Heroes” program senior advisor to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and is launching a small IT firm with other strategic partners. I want to grow the business and hire more veterans and caregivers.” He also co-founded the nonprofit Veterans Success Resource Group.
Although he is a member of the Army Navy Country Club, Constantine doesn’t get to golf as much as he would like. “I only get to do out about 12 times a year,” he said. “Traveling seems provide more opportunities than when I am home in New York.”
Constantine participated in a number of other adaptive sports, including skiing, kayaking, swimming, tennis, and boccia, but golf has allowed him to network and possibly build business opportunities. “I haven’t closed a deal on the course yet as they say.” He has a 12 handicap, which he says is “decent but certainly not setting any course records.” He is inspired by the amazing warrior athletes that have overcome some very tough obstacles. “I am not one of those people. I have not competed in the Warrior Games. I am not a Paralympic athlete.”