Grant Recipient SPOTLIGHT: Salute Military Golf Association

ParaGolfer instruction and practice.

We are proud to support organizations like The Salute Military Golf Association (SMGA) who are making a difference in the lives of combat veterans!  Similar to Tee It Up for the Troops, the SMGA aims to meld a love of country and love of golf to support the mental and physical rehabilitation programs of veterans. The SMGA’s mission is to provide rehabilitative golf programs, experiences, and family-inclusive golf opportunities for post 9/11 wounded war veterans to help improve the quality of life for these American heroes. Eligible veterans and service members include those wounded or injured in post 9/11 military operations, including those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Tee It Up for the Troops has granted over $100,000 to SMGA to help wounded veterans with their rehabilitation and transition to civilian life by providing golf instruction and golf equipment. Tee It Up for the Troops’ donations to SMGA have been put to good use in the purchase of custom-fitted golf clubs, specialized equipment such as ParaGolfers, and to expand programming beyond their 20 locations. In 2019-2020, SMGA programs will expand to Myrtle Beach, SC; Albany, OR; and Jacksonville, FL.   

Golf instruction at SMGA’s Olney, MD, Flagship Chapter.

“The partnership we share with Tee It Up for the Troops is the SMGA’s longest and dates back to a shared booth at the 2008 PGA Merchandise Show,” said James Winslow, Co-Founder/President, SMGA. “The SMGA could have never expanded beyond its single, original chapter and a handful of veterans without the dedicated support we’ve received from Tee It Up for the Troops over the years. That support has allowed the SMGA to provide programming to more than 3000 veterans and offer more than 2000 post-9/11 veterans custom-fitted golf equipment at no cost.”   

Tee It Up for the Troops recent 2019 grant will be used primarily to support the SMGA American Golfer Program. The American Golfer program affords participation in SMGA to wounded veterans who are not located within proximity to one of the clinic locations and matches post-9/11 wounded warriors with PGA of America professionals familiar with teaching adaptive golf. Through American Golfer, SMGA offers a series of private golf lessons covering all aspects of the game of golf. SMGA provides a custom-fitted set of clubs to any veteran who completes the program.

BETHESDA, MD – JUNE 26: Wounded Warrior Chris Bowers hits a shot on the 17th fairway during the Pro-Am round for the AT&T National at Congressional Country Club on June 26, 2013 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)

Our grant partner, SMGA, also understands the unique needs of veterans returning home from service and have also witnessed first-hand the powerful benefits the game of golf can provide in improving the quality of life of wounded servicemen and women. Thank you SMGA for a great partnership and all you do for our veterans and their families! Together we are making a difference in the lives of combat veterans!

Vietnam War Battle Buddies Reunite After 47 Years

Terry Branham served 26 years of active duty in the U.S. Army and retired as a Colonel and Master Army Aviator. His service included conflicts in Vietnam, the Gulf War and the U.S. Drug War in South America as an Attack Helicopter Pilot. Among his many awards are several medals for valor, including a distinguished flying cross, a bronze star and silver star. This is Retired Colonel Terry Branham’s REUNION story. 

A man, who was like a kindred brother to me, was lost and could not be found.

Let me take you back to June 1970 and how we were separated on the battlefield.  Mike and I were both flying different missions in Cambodia.  Mike was flying an OH-6 LOH aircraft that searched for the enemy and then Cobra attack helicopters would attack the enemy when the OH-6 was taking fire. Mike’s aircraft was struck in a barrage of ground-to-air gunfire and Mike was shot in the right elbow and leg. With an injured leg and an inoperable arm, he was unable to fly the aircraft and the helicopter crashed. Mike and his crew chief survived the crash but once outside the aircraft they were under fire. Somehow, they were able to run to cover and later were rescued by helicopter and whisked back to the base hospital. Mike, running on the leg with a bullet that sheared his femur, caused the femur bone to jam upwards past the break in the bone. I heard of his incident and asked every day to be released to go see him back at our base Cu Chi Hospital. Three days later, I was back from my mission and was able to see Mike at the base hospital. He was in a full-body cast, needed traction, and reconstructive surgery. He was being medically evacuated back to the states and that is the last time I saw Mike for almost five decades.

Over the years, we tried to find each other, however, without the internet, and with a name change for Mike and a military top-secret security clearance for myself, trying to track each other down proved impossible.  It wasn’t until four years ago, through another veteran, that I learned Mike was still alive and I was able to obtain his contact information.

REUNION Program and Long-Awaited Phone Call 

With many Vietnam memories and emotions coming back to the surface, I was finally ready to pick up the phone and contact Mike.  After a few phone conversations, I had an unbelievable opportunity to invite Mike to REUNION, a Tee It Up for the Troops outreach program that reunites combat veterans and helps them heal and work through the hidden wounds of war including anxiety, depression, isolation, and suicide.

REUNION is hosted in a secure and relaxing resort environment, Reunion Resort, in  Kissimmee, Florida. If you are selected to attend REUNION, it is an all-expenses-paid trip including accommodations for you, your combat buddy, spouses or caregivers. Participants not only reconnect with those who are most trusted, they also develop new friendships and support networks to help them heal, transition, grow, and thrive. Mike and I both benefited from therapeutic time talking, participation in a variety of helpful breakout sessions, and playing some golf. Our spouses were able to meet, spend time together and benefited from peer support and educational sessions.

My Reunion with Mike

After not seeing my Vietnam combat brother for 47 years, I felt a wave of emotion when I saw and hugged him again at REUNION.  It’s how I picture heaven and reuniting with family members whom we have not seen for years.

We spent many hours sharing our post-Vietnam life stories which we wished we had been able to share throughout the years.  We reminisced with stories about our shared combat actions and the good things we believed we were doing for our fellow brothers in arms. We shared pictures of our time in combat.  We laughed about the same things that had made us laugh back then – taking away the tears we both shed when we were separated by Mike’s medical evacuation.

I was relieved that Mike had recovered and made a great life for himself. However, I had unresolved issues that hung over me for all those 47 years that aggravated the harsh, negative side effects of war for me.  What could have been different if I were flying with him that day? What would have happened?  I now had answers to the prayers I said for Mike so many times – prayers that he would live the full and happy life that he so deserved. I also had the foundation of a strong new friendship with a person who understood exactly what it meant to put your life on the line in service of your combat brothers and country.

A New Friendship and Inspiration Forged

Before leaving REUNION, Mike and I pledged to honor our friendship by staying in touch and continuing to share our lives and plan more activities together, and we are doing just that.  We go fishing together for a week every summer and talk about all the things brothers talk about.  It has inspired me to finally write about my experiences in Vietnam and all I learned about myself as a man and a warrior. Those long-ago experiences steeled me to be a leader who cared about the men and women I served with as much as I cared about my family.

Warriors make families. Warriors truly know what life is about. We know it isn’t about stuff. It’s about relationships…like those very meaningful relationships at REUNION that get rekindled, help you to heal, and bring new friendships and meaning into your life.


Learn more about REUNION.  Connect and reunite with a fellow combat veteran or to help veterans survive on the home-front and get back on course by sponsoring the event.