AT&T National honors troops during patriotic opening
July 3, 2008
By Tim Hipps
BETHESDA, Md. (Army News Service, July 3, 2008) - Although Army brat Tiger Woods was at home in Florida mending his wounded knee, the opening ceremony of his AT&T National PGA Tour event was a nonstop tribute to service members and their Families.
About 20 wounded warriors were seated beside the No. 1 tee box - not far from 25 children of deployed parents. An Air Force brass quintet seated between them entertained the crowd. A Joint Services Honor Guard backed 14-year-old Anna Nicholson's rendition of the "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Five skydivers from the 101st Airborne Screaming Eagles Parachute Demonstration Team then dropped onto the lush fairway - delivering golf balls that had been struck by troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom.
Military kids Maggie Rollins and Jeff Dahl teed up and whacked two of the balls to officially open the second-annual Earl Woods Memorial Pro-Am July 2 at Congressional Country Club.
"I wanted this year's ceremony to honor the men and women who serve in our military and their Families," said Tiger Woods, who donated 30,000 tickets for military Families to attend the tournament. "I grew up in a military household, which gave me an understanding of the sacrifices these Soldiers and their Families make for all of us. It's our way of saying thanks to them."
The Wounded Warrior Project hosted the group of Soldiers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where they are recovering from life-altering injuries.
"It is the premiere organization that just steps up and supports the families and supports the warriors," said Staff Sgt. (ret.) Dan Nevins, a double-amputee who was injured Nov. 10, 2004, in Balad, Iraq, when an IED exploded beneath his vehicle. "They're the people who can get guys like me out of the hospital bed and onto the mountains skiing and onto the river rafting and rock climbing - you name it - just to prove to you that you can do everything you used to be able to. You might have to change some things or have some adaptive equipment. I don't have any legs, but I can still play golf. I've whitewater rafted. You can go snowboarding, wakeboarding, you name it.
"I cannot imagine rehabilitation without it."
Later in the day, PGA Tour officials treated wounded Soldiers and their Families to a barbecue at Walter Reed Army Medical Center's Mologne House in Washington as part of their Birdies for the Brave military outreach program.
The AT&T National, which runs through July 6, will honor a specific branch of the U.S. military each day: Coast Guard Wednesday, Air Force Thursday, Navy Friday, Marine Corps Saturday and Army Sunday.
"To be here on the Fourth of July week in the nation's capital celebrating our independence and our freedom with a group of guys who have given so much, a group of people in a sport who care more than they let on - they all do so much to give back - it's just been phenomenal," Nevins said. "You can't ask for more."
(Tim Hipps serves with FMWRC Public Affairs.)