America Supports You: Pro Golfer Helps Vets Through Birdies
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 8, 2005 Servicemembers around the world can be forgiven if they root for Phil Mickelson as golf's Masters Tournament heads toward its scheduled finish April 10 in Augusta, Ga.
Mickelson has pledged to donate $100 for every birdie (one stroke under par) and $500 for every eagle (two strokes under par) he shoots to Homes for Our Troops, a nonprofit foundation in Massachusetts dedicated to adapting or building homes for disabled veterans with special needs.
Mickelson has been having a great year. To date, the 2004 Masters champion has shot 151 birdies and two eagles since his pledge. "He has been very good to us," said Victoria Mosier, Homes for Our Troops spokeswoman.
In a press release announcing his support for Homes for Our Troops, Mickelson called the family the "No. 1 priority" for him and his wife, Amy. "I am honored to assist Homes for Our Troops with their efforts in meeting the housing needs of our servicemen and women who have given so much for our country," he said.
The organization is a team member of the Defense Department's "America Supports You" program, which spotlights what citizens are doing across the nation to show appreciation to servicemembers.
In Homes for Our Troops, people can donate funds, materials or labor to build or adapt homes earmarked for veterans with disabilities. When the group finishes building or adapting a home, the veteran owes the organization nothing.
The organization works with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the military services to identify veterans with special needs. It then works to build or adapt homes to accommodate their special needs. The first home, begun Dec. 19, 2004, in Middleboro, Mass., will accommodate Army Sgt. Peter Damon and his family. Damon lost both hands in a Black Hawk helicopter accident.
Another home will help Army Staff Sgt. Eugene Simpson, who is paralyzed from the waist down following an improvised-explosive-device attack in Tikrit, Iraq. Simpson lives in Dale City, Va., and Homes for Our Troops is working with local craftsmen and volunteers to adapt Simpson's home to accommodate his disability.
Currently, the organization is actually "turning dirt" on five projects and is looking at many others. Limiting factors are manpower, money and materials, Mosier said.
The organization is the brainchild of John Gonsalves, a construction supervisor who was idled by the New England winter last year and spent a lot of time watching the news. Gonsalves said he saw many servicemembers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan wounded and sought to volunteer to help adapt homes for the returning veterans. "But there wasn't any type of organization that did that, so he started one," Mosier said.
Meanwhile, Mickelson continues play in the tournament after a shortened, rain-delayed opening on April 7. There was no word on what the golfer would contribute if he hits a hole in one.