Teeing It Up For Our Fallen Troops

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - August 29, 2007
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If you only play one round of golf this year, make it Saturday.

On Sept. 1 courses throughout the nation will take part in Patriot Golf Day, a fundraiser for the Wounded Warriors, Inc. and the Fallen Heroes Foundation. Golfers at public courses will be asked to add $1 to their regular greens fees that will be donated to these organizations.

Those playing at private courses will be asked to make a straight donation to the cause.

If you need a reminder of what’s at stake, last Thursday’s dailies carried the gruesome news. On the single bloodiest day for the U.S. Army in Iraq this year, 10 Hawaii-based soldiers lost their lives in a Blackhawk helicopter crash in Northern Iraq. It was also the highest one-day death total for the 25th Infantry Division since the Vietnam War.


The Fallen Heroes Foundation provides financial and emotional support to the families of fallen or injured servicemembers, and educational financing for children and spouses of those lost in war. Wounded Warriors helps by supplying free-of-charge family-friendly resorts where families can go to find some relief from the burdens they carry. A letter from a soldier’s wife on the Wounded Warriors website sums up the effort perfectly.

It reads in part, “Since my husband was killed in October 2005, my kids have not had a chance to just be children and have some fun. They are paying the price for our freedom; the loss of their father. Wounded Warriors most generous donation of a week at the resort and Disney tickets was just the medicine that my children needed. They had an opportunity to have some fun, relax, and get their minds off of their sadness. The kids are doing well despite all that they have been through. We will continue to honor and remember their father every day and they will not forget his love or his sacrifice for them and our country.”

Capt. Dan Rooney, an F-16 pilot with the Oklahoma Air National Guard, created the Fallen Heroes Foundation and envisioned the national golf fundraiser as a way to help the families of his fellow service-members.

“We had hosted a golf tournament in 2006 at our club in Grand Haven, Mich., and in 2007 we were hosting another event, but at that point we wanted to specifically control where the money was going as opposed to just donating to another organization,” says the PGA member and part owner, with his father John, of the Grand Haven Golf Club. “Basically we now have no overhead.”

With two tours in Iraq under his belt and another coming up next year, Rooney knows of the difficulties facing military families during the uncertainty of deployment during war.


“Do I ever really consider the fact that I won’t be coming home? No, but I’m also not one of the true heroes of the conflict, which is the Army and the Marines, the guys on the ground. There is a serious danger being on the ground in Iraq. Your family is a huge concern and making sure your life is in order to basically step out of it. It’s an experience that’s kind of surreal ... because your life goes on without you.”

Matt Hall, president of the Aloha Section PGA, said the PGA has committed its support to Patriot Golf Day for the long haul.

“The President of the PGA of America, Brian Whitcomb, has pledged to make this an annual event,” he says. “The big part for us is to facilitate the event and to bring awareness to the cause. Every section in the nation is taking part and we’re up to 2,500 participating courses.”

As of this writing 19 courses throughout the state have signed up for the fundraiser with many pledging to provide matching funds.

Though the idea of a nationwide golf fundraiser did not occur to Rooney until March, the plan has quickly caught fire.

“I am humbled and surprised,” he says. “But in my heart of hearts I just knew from talking to people that people want to contribute, and Partriot Day is a perfect vehicle so that they can step up, make a difference and show these families that they appreciate their sacrifices and that they are behind them.”

To find a participating course, go to www.playgolfamerica. com

The site has a link to the organizations and where you can donate. Rooney says that although they don’t currently have a system set up to earmark funds to specific areas, that if a donor does request that their contribution stay close to home, that the organization will work to make it happen.

“Anyone that is willing to donate money to the foundation and that has a specific desire for where the money will go, absolutely we will make that happen.”

The Patriot Day flyer says, “So, before you tee it up, honor those who served us so valiantly.”

In the memory of Capt. Derek Dobogai, Staff Sgt. Jason Paton, Sgt. Garrett McLead, Cpl. Jeremy Bouffard, Cpl. Phillip Brodnick, Cpl. Joshua Harmon, Cpl. Nathan Hubbard, Spc. Michael Hook, Spc. Jessy Pollard and Spc. Tyler Seideman play a round.

No matter your score, you’ll never finish with a better feeling.

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