America Supports You: PGA Tour Hosts Wounded Warriors at Barbecue
By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 3, 2008 Wounded warriors and the PGA tour kicked off their Independence Day celebration a couple of days early with food and festivities yesterday at Mologne House, on the Walter Reed Army Medical Center campus here.
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem, right, and Dan Nevins, Tour community outreach manager, welcome wounded warriors and their families to the “Birdies for the Brave” barbecue July 2, 2008, at Mologne House, on the Walter Reed Army Medical Center campus in Washington, D.C. Defense Dept. photo by Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The event was sponsored by the PGA’s “Birdies for the Brave” program, which falls under PGA Tour Charity Inc. and is the tour’s primary program for supporting military members and their families.
More than 200 recovering servicemembers and their families attended the celebration and were treated to the traditional holiday grub of burgers and hot dogs. Troops showcased their golf skills, or lack thereof, teeing off in practice nets and putting on practice greens. They also received hats, golf towels, ball markers, and other PGA logo apparel and souvenirs.
Several big names in golf, including PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, made the trip down from the AT&T National at Congressional Country Club, in Bethesda, Md., to show their support and appreciation for the troops.
“Support for the military is a big part of what the PGA Tour is all about,” said Finchem, who’s been working with the Defense Department’s America Supports You program and other home-front organizations for the past few years. “All of us at the tour are privileged to help out and show our support any way we can.”
Players are committed to giving the PGA Tour the opportunity to give support, Finchem noted, adding that the tour raised $2.5 million for charity last year. “The players really believe in pushing the opportunities before us to recognize and support wounded warriors and their families,” he said.
Pro golfer Kevin Streelman said he and his wife, Courtney, try to attend as many charity events as they can. As a rookie on the tour, “it’s eye-opening in a lot of ways to see how powerful the PGA Tour is and the many different avenues they go through to put smiles on people’s faces.”
For Dan Nevins, the tour’s community outreach manager and host of the event, the barbecue and festivities were particularly close to home. The retired Army staff sergeant lost both of his legs below the knee from injuries he suffered in November 2004 in Iraq, and he spent 22 months in Mologne House during his rehabilitation.
“I know what most of you are going through,” Nevins said during his remarks to the crowd. “I’m a wounded warrior, first and foremost, and I know firsthand the courage, faith and perseverance it takes to carry on from day to day.”
During his time at Walter Reed, Nevins met PGA players at similar charity and fundraising events, and he eventually was invited to play golf with them. Playing golf was his favorite form of rehabilitation, Nevins said.
“The support the tour provided me and my fellow wounded warriors here at Walter Reed was incredible and helped build mind and body in immeasurable ways,” he said. “I am truly honored to be part of an organization that does so much for our men and women in uniform and their families.”
Air Force Senior Airman Christian Ivory and Air Force Airman 1st Class Craig Larcenaire shared Nevin’s appreciation and gratitude for the tour. Both were injured in an accident in Italy and have been rehabilitating at Mologne House for three months.
“A barbecue and some golf is definitely a great way to kick off the Fourth of July weekend,” Larcenaire said. “Events like this really help troops’ morale and state of mind as we work through our injuries.”
Ivory admitted he’s not much of a golfer. “But just coming out here and hanging out with [the players] in this environment is very cool,” he said. “I like the fact that they came out here to lend the time, hang out and just talk with us -- that they care enough to tell us things are going to get better.”