Warrior Spotlight – Ivan Cotto
Ivan spent 20 years in the Army despite having no family lineage in the military. He was born in New York, raised in Puerto Rico, and went to high school in Connecticut. While working as a youth counselor at the local YMCA, a friend got him interested in the Army. After graduation he enlisted as an Infantry Indirect Fire Crewmember in 1988. While assigned to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment he deployed to Desert Storm/Desert Shield for six months in 1990.
“My basic thing about war was, in our days we were grunts in the desert patrolling the areas and Iraqis were everywhere. In your mind what sticks out is not knowing whether you’re coming home or not.” he said. “I wanted to talk to somebody about depression, reach out and talk to somebody. Be around other veterans.”
Growing up as an athlete playing baseball and enjoying the competition of sports, golf was a natural transition for Ivan, even if he had no prior experience. Fellow veteran Brad Wise invited him to the driving range at first in 2007-08 and he got bit by the golf bug ever since, retiring the same year in 2008.
Healing Unseen Wounds
By 2015, Ivan wanted to be more than a participant in golf clinics and strived to help other veterans receive a similar therapy as he has. “I wanted to give back and come out of those lows and reach out to some of my friends,” he said. “I enjoy learning about the game, but more about socializing with people, smiling and laughing and telling jokes. Golf is the game that no matter how good or poor you play, because the game is handicapped, everyone can play together. Socializing to me is what fulfills my day.”
Ivan attained a Golf Management degree from the Golf Academy in America in Orlando. This 2-year course covers everything from club fitting, instruction, tournament operations, and the business side of things. “I got to teach 80 hours at Grand Vista to 23 students and this gave me a real opportunity to get my feet in the door.”
Ivan is currently looking for stable employment and hopes to move to Panama to live with his wife. “The biggest thing I want others to take away is everything we deal with, there always needs to be a higher power to begin our focus. When someone asks me how I’m doing I say, ‘Today I will live my life according to God’s will and give my energy to the things that will help me fulfill it.’”