America Supports You: Golfers Drive Home Support for Troops
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
CROMWELL, Conn., Oct. 11, 2006 Nearly 150 golfers hit the links at River Highlands TPC golf club here yesterday to support wounded servicemembers.
Connecticut Army National Guardsman Spc. Meric Martin, with the 102nd Army Band out of Bristol, Conn., sings the national anthem to kick off the Pratt & Whitney America Supports You Tournament at Highland Rivers TPC golf club in Cromwell, Conn., on Oct. 10. A color guard from the Connecticut Recruiting and Retention Command, in Hartford, presented the colors. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The day began with opening ceremonies that included a color guard from the Connecticut Recruiting and Retention Command, out of Hartford. Army Spc. Meric Martin, a Connecticut National Guardsman with the 102nd Army Band out of Bristol, performed the national anthem.
“I think (the event) is great,” Connecticut Army National Guardsman Sgt. 1st Class Robert Beloff, with Joint Forces Headquarters for the state of Connecticut, said. “When you see the news and you see people protesting (the war) and things like that, something like this almost cancels that all out.
“It’s a good feeling,” he added.
The Pratt & Whitney America Supports You Tournament raised about $110,000 through donations and golf fees. Three organizations that offer support to wounded servicemembers and their families -- Homes For Our Troops, the Wounded Warrior Project, and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund -- will share the funds, Tammy Young, director of special events and catering for River Highlands, said.
The groups, respectively, also benefit from the efforts of PGA players Phil Mickelson, Rory Sabbatini and Frank Lickliter, throughout the season. They’re also members of America Supports You, a Defense Department program highlighting ways Americans and the corporate sector support the nation’s servicemembers.
Pratt & Whitney, a defense contractor and major sponsor of last year’s River Highlands event returned to sponsor this year’s event. Mike Field, a senior vice president in sales and marketing with Pratt & Whitney, said the company has an ongoing relationship with River Highlands and liked that the event allows people to interact with servicemembers.
“PGA has set out, through these series of America Supports You events, to create awareness in perhaps a nontraditional location and appeal to people’s interest to come out and … have the opportunity to recognize what the men and women of our services do,” Field said.
About a dozen servicemembers took advantage of an unusually temperate fall day to play 18 holes of golf on the PGA course. The importance of the event and the visibility it brings to the needs of their wounded comrades was not lost on them.
“Being with the recruiting and retention command, our main thing is to get the word out there to the veterans, the guys that are actually over there … serving their country,” Army Master Sgt. Michael Dezi, said. “The more people that we can get involved and (showing) patriotism, that’s our goal.”
While the day was a lighthearted outing with prizes for shooting holes-in-one, getting the closest to the pin, and placing first, second and third overall, it had a serious note, as well. For the civilians involved, it was about honoring servicemembers, Young said.
“It gives a chance for the people that are out there to meet (servicemembers), shake their hands, raise their morale, (and) let them know that they care about them,” Young said. “Hopefully the people that participate will take away that feeling and tell other people.
“I think that there’s a great ripple effect that comes out of this type of a feel-good day,” she said.
As a further show of support, River Highlands has adopted a unit currently serving in Iraq, Young said. The club will send monthly care packages to the servicemembers until they return home.
The America Supports You/TPC partnership began in 2005 and has raised $450,000 in donations through events at all 24 TPC locations nationwide. While each club holds fundraisers, it’s up to them to decide the details of each event, Young said.
The River Highlands fundraiser grew considerably from last year’s, which was impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Many servicemembers scheduled to participate were deployed to Louisiana and Mississippi, Young said.
This year the event sold out in June, prompting the club to add a smaller-scale event on July 31 to accommodate all those who wished to participate. Plans are already in the works for the 2007 event, which will take place Oct. 9.