First things first. We’d like to say a huge THANK YOU to all of our participants and sponsors, our vets, and most importantly, the volunteers who made our 18th Annual Golf Tournament a great success and a wonderful show of support for our Combat Wounded. Some great, and some not so great, golf was played, and there was plenty of sunshine, enough heat, and a few beers to go around. Best of all, we had great company.
It’s been a long road since our first golf tournament on November 29, 2001, which consisted of a few golfers trying to send some love and support to the family of Michael McDonnell, a young husband and father who was killed in the WTC attacks. From that day forward, we’ve used golf as one of the main ways to bring people to together.
The original tournament was meant to be a one-time event to see if a small group of us could send a message of love to a family that was devastated by the WTC attacks. But the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq—and the need to help our warriors little by little—turned that small group into Wounded Heroes of America.
We’ve had some amazing events throughout the years, all while learning about and appreciating the sacrifices made by the brave men and women who wear the uniform. Most importantly, we’ve been able to build relationships that have lasted for years.
What makes our tournaments special is the number of our vets who are still connected to us long after our financial assistance has ended. We have a philosophy of maintaining continual contact, whether it’s through our annual events such as A Day at the Ranch or A Day at Fair, our monthly get-togethers, or our Christmas programs. But no event is more fun—or entails more work—than our Annual Golf Tournament.
Many of our out-of-state vets come to visit for this event, and this year we were joined by vets from the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. There, we have a group of Navajo combat vets whom we’ve assisted and continue to maintain a connection with.
Veterans Airlift Command, an organization providing post-9/11 Combat Wounded Veterans free air transportation, brought to the golf tournament Alroy Billiman and West James, two Native American combat vets. One of our Marines, Erick Zenteno, flew here from Virginia, and many others from all around southern California showed up to enjoy fellowship and to break bread with their fellow vets.
It’s always gratifying to have these guys come here and spend time with their brothers. It’s like a reunion. Time and distance apart don’t matter; they act as if they’ve seen each other only yesterday. We’ve built some strong bonds with and between many of our vets, and that’s our enduring legacy.
From our beginning, we’ve been assisting surviving spouses either directly or in conjunction with other foundations working towards our shared goal. In 2006, we had our first contact with combat wounded vets, and that changed the focus of our foundation from assisting surviving spouses of our Fallen Warriors to assisting our Combat Wounded and their families. Because of the large number of local wounded vets and our proximity to area VA hospitals, we saw a need we knew we could help fill.
It all started when we received an invitation from our first local vet to attend a Purple Heart ceremony at the Long Beach VA. During the ceremony, we met our first four combat wounded vets. Ten years later, three of those four vets attended the post tournament dinner.
That just goes to show that we still get together because that’s how we work. That’s what makes us special. Our fellowship makes us a family, and as the young people say these days, “That’s how we roll.”