NEENAH, Wis. (WFRV) – Terry Vander Zanden grew up in Black Creek with two brothers who served in Vietnam.

“I knew from about when I was 13, that I wanted to go into the military,” he recalled.

Namely, the Navy.

“I’d seen all of the fancy medals that the guys had, so I thought, ‘Well that looks cool.’ So, I thought I’d join,” said Vander Zanden.

Little did Vander Zanden know that in 1980, it would lead to a 13-year career as a cook aboard submarines.

But his real story begins after he retired from the Navy. Vander Zanden found himself struggling with PTSD and bipolar disorder, which left him feeling alone.

“The major thing was I was isolating and not having any friends, so the main purpose was to get me out in the community,” Vander Zanden said.

That’s when his doctor at the VA clinic suggested BEAMING Inc, an equine support service in Neenah.

Vander Zanden has been volunteering here now for the last five years. He started as a part of the Hearts, Heroes & Horses program for veterans.

It’s why you’ve seen the horse, Spuds, standing by in his interview.

“Terry has really improved the quality of his life. He was on many, many meds and now, he can come out to the barn. He’s out here sometimes 5-6 times a week enjoying the horses and our community,” said Katie Samuelson, center director at Beaming Inc. 

And Vander Zanden agrees.

“It changed my life for the better. I learned to be calmer, and more relaxed. It still hurts when I do things, but I’m also enjoying the pain because I’m making a horse feel better, I’m making a child feel happy,” he said.

 And for Vander Zanden, that’s really all he needs. That, and his good buddy Spuds.

“He’s my favorite horse because we both have issues. So him and I, with our disabilities together, we make a great pair,” he said.

To learn more about BEAMING Inc and its programs, click here.