Each unique style in the Imperial Veterans Give Back Hat Collection was hand-selected by a United States combat veteran connected to Tee It Up for the Troops and embroidered with their name, nickname, or call sign.
Explore the Give Back Hat Collection and say “thank you” to a veteran while sporting a hero’s hat. A portion of the proceeds from all sales will benefit Tee It Up for the Troops. There were 12 Tee It Up for the Troops combat veterans selected for this project who designed an Imperial golf hat in honor of their service. You can browse the collection, read these hero stories, and see their hat styles here:
The Moondog & Mommadore sun protection hat is named for U.S. veterans Kathryn and Derek Donovan. We will bring you all of these amazing warrior stories and the hats they created in the upcoming months. Today, we start with the dynamic husband and wife team of Navy Captain Kathryn Donovan and Retired United States Marine Corps COL, Derek Donovan who designed a unique sun protection hat jointly. Kathryn and Derek named their hat the “Moondog & Mommadore,” meaningful nicknames for both of them.
Retired United States Navy Captain Kathryn Donovan is a 1987 graduate of the US Naval Academy with a distinguished 30-year career as an officer in the Civil Engineer Corps. Her extensive combat operational experience includes battalion command in Iraq and regimental command in Afghanistan. She also served as a White House Fellow at the Department of Health & Human Services as well as the Chief of Staff for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command.
Retired United States Marine Corps COL, Derek Donovan, served 27 years and was a UH-1N (Huey) helicopter pilot by training with more than 3500 flight hours and a considerable deployment schedule. He commanded the Marine Corps Air Facility at Quantico and was the Aide de Camp to the Secretary of the Navy. His last assignment was with the President’s Commission for the Care of America’s Returning Wounded Warriors. After the Corps, he spent eight years as Vice President at Fisher House Foundation.
Derek and Kathryn are married and reside in Virginia. Together they have a daughter who is a 1st Class Petty Officer in the Navy serving as a Seabee builder and a son who works for the railroad and is a Navy and Army Veteran. The Donovan’s immediate family (parents, siblings, and children) have over 115 years of combined service in uniform.
Give a Gift to Thank Veterans and Honor America’s Veterans and Military Families
November is a perfect month to honor America’s veterans and military families and thank those who served our nation in uniform. November 11 is Veterans Day, a day when we honor and give thanks to those who have served our country in war or peace. November is also Veterans and Military Family Appreciation Month, which is a great opportunity to recognize the sacrifices and contributions military families make that many times go unnoticed.
As we commemorate our veterans and their families, we honor the individuals who have served our country for generations — those who served out of honor, duty, and love for their country, and some who made the ultimate sacrifice.
What could be better than interacting with some of America’s combat veterans while helping them to heal and get back on course? What if we throw in playing golf on signature courses designed by three of golf’s greatest legends: Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, and Arnold Palmer?
Tee It Up for the Troops relies on corporate sponsors and donors to assist us in reuniting combat veterans who were separated due to battlefield situations. The game of golf serves as the backdrop for our signature REUNION event, January 10-14, 2024, at Reunion Resort in Kissimmee, Florida.
We have developed multiple sponsorship options for differing budgets and commitment levels to help you honor America’s veterans and military families You can also contact us to see if we can create a specialized sponsorship opportunity for you!
The excitement of the pursuit of golf’s holy grail is the HOLE-IN-ONE. The VERY RARE hole-in-one – statistics say that the odds of two golfers playing the same course on the same day and both making holes-in-one is 17 million to 1.
Recently, our charity golf organization, which has been “teeing it up for veterans” for almost 20 years, defied those odds. For the first time ever, two holes-in-one were achieved on the same day at the Springhaven Club in Pennsylvania. This incredible feat was repeated a few weeks later at the Mt. Hawley Club in Illinois with two more golfers making holes-in-one!
But wait, this story gets better! Two of the players who aced the hole were military veterans and one of them WON A CAR!!
Mt. Hawley Club Event
Vietnam Veteran Joe Parmenter, 76, was participating in the Tee It Up for the Troops Peoria, Illinois event that benefits local veterans. Joe stepped up to the gold tees on hole number 9, his last hole for the day, and used a five wood and shot a hole-in-one at 168 yards.
“I have been playing golf since I was eleven years old and this was my first hole-in-one,” exclaimed Joe. “I knew that I had hit a good shot but did not realize it went into the hole. The lady who was monitoring the tee box and my playing partners started yelling, ‘It went in the hole. You got a hole-in-one!’,” Joe said. Joe’s ace won him $25,000 towards the purchase of a new car. “We have purchased our new car and are waiting for it to arrive,” added Joe.
Joe still gets on the course about one to two times a week, however, because of health issues this was only his sixth time playing this year.
With 21 years of service in the United States Marine Corps, Joe achieved the rank of Senior Master Sergeant and retired in 2001. “I think the Tee It Up for the Troops event is a wonderful way for veterans to get together, meet other veterans, share stories, and have fun. It’s a very well-organized and run organization,” Joe said.
Participant Britt Bothast also made a hole-in-one at the Peoria charity event on hole number 17, 175 yards, using his 7 iron. This was the second year Britt had participated in the event and his second ace.
Springhaven Club Event
790 miles to the east at the inaugural Tee It Up for the Troops Springhaven Club event in Pennsylvania, Johnny Carpineta, 82, who served in the US Army from 1964-1968, was playing. Jonnie’s ace came on No. 16 using a 9-iron with a distance of 120 yards. This was Johnnie’s fourth hole-in-one.
Retired Army nurse Donna Woody, one of Johnny’s playing partners that day, had just stepped up to the tee and hit a really good shot. She said to Johnny, “See if you can beat that!”
“I stepped up to the tee, really wasn’t thinking of too much other than what a great day this was, and swung away,” Johnny said. “After we figured out my shot ended up in the cup, I thought… well every squirrel gets a nut sometimes.”
At age 64 Johnny obtained his PGA card and he plays in many military charity events.
“We had 14 members of the PGA Hope Program at the Tee It Up for the Troops event,” said Johnny. PGA HOPE introduces golf to active-duty military and military veterans to enhance their physical, social, mental, and emotional well-being. “They were raving about the event. There were great gifts including a beautiful golf hat. It was just a fantastic day where these service men and women could forget all their pain, forget about who they lost and just have a good time,” Johnny said.
Springhaven Club member, Tom Carroll, was the second golfer who made a hole-in-one at this charity event. Tom made his crowning achievement on the 13th hole at 170 yards.
Congratulations to All
A hole-in-one is a miraculous feat. Congratulations to all these patriotic golfers for their great accomplishments! Raising funds to help wounded warriors heal and have hope is an incredible feat and achievement too! Thank you to all those involved in the Springhaven Club event and the Mt. Hawley Club event for your dedication and support of veterans!
They were called “Angels from Heaven.” They were typical all-American gals who were ready to take on the world in service to their country during the Vietnam War. They were not drafted. They volunteered. They were the nurses who served in the Vietnam War.
Tee It Up for the Troops paid tribute to a group of nurses who served during the Vietnam War at the 2023 Tee It Up for the Troops Event at Mendakota Country Club. In attendance, honored and pictured above left to right were: Mary Lu Ostergern- Brunner, Army Nurse Corps, 71st Evacuation Hospital, Pleiku, 1968-1969; Pam Barrows, Army Nurse Corps, 71st Evacuation Hospital, Pleiku, 1966-1967; Mary Breed, Army Nurse Corps, 95th Evacuation Hospital, Da Nang, 18th Surgical Hospital, Quang Tri, 1970-1971; Kay Bauer, Navy Nurse Corps, Vietnamese Provincial Hospital, Rach Gia, 1966-1967; Jeanne Mahaffey, Navy Nurse Corps, USS Sanctuary, Vietnam, 1971 – 1974 Lynn Bower, Army Nurse Corps, 24th Evacuation Hospital, Long Binh, Vietnam 1971.
Nurses Played a Vital Role in the Vietnam War
This group of nurses played a significant role in that war zone, providing high levels of care under extremely difficult conditions. They also returned home to the same unfriendly reception male veterans famously suffered, and often with the same psychological trauma. Nearly 10,000 women served in Vietnam during the war – 7,000 were nurses. Many were just barely out of nursing school when they were sent overseas.
The nurses who served in the Vietnam War are among the least recognized American military veterans. Many films and TV programs about U.S. involvement in Vietnam do not depict a single American nurse. We forget that thousands of women, like this group, also played a vital role in the Vietnam War.
Vietnam Nurses Honored
Members of the Vietnam nurses group honored initially met through a support group at the VA in Minnesota. Now they get together once a year for a potluck lunch and support.
Pam Barrows and Mary Lu Ostergern- Brunner were both in the 71st Evac Hospital at the same time in Pleiku, Vietnam, an area of heavy combat and casualties. Since Mary Lu was in the OR and Pam was in the ICU, they never met or connected while in Vietnam. Once back in Minnesota, they met through the Veteran Home where Mary Lu was a board member and Pam was an Administrator at the Veteran Home in Luverne, MN.
Pam Barrows-Army Nurse Corps
“My best friend from nursing school and I entered the service together and we were supposed to be assigned to the same unit after basic but we weren’t,” said Army nurse Pam Barrows. “We talked to those in charge and said “you promised” we would be assigned together and then they reassigned us both to Ft. Polk which had the reputation for being the armpit of the Army. Hearing that we said we might as well go to Vietnam but had no clue what we were asking for!”
Nurses in Vietnam did whatever was asked of them. They often worked round the clock in massive casualty situations, directing triage, assisting with emergency tracheotomies and amputations, inserting tubes to assist surgeons, and removing damaged tissue and shrapnel from wounds. Pam said they were called “Pluckers” because they plucked out shrapnel from wounded soldiers.
“Our shifts were 12 hours, 6 days a week and our incoming came by helicopter, said Pam who worked in the Surgical ICU at the 71st Evacuation Hospital in Pleiku, Vietnam. “It would be called a ‘PUSH’ and the wounded were triaged in the ER. Often when working day shifts, we might have to crawl to safety if under a rocket attack.”
Pam said there was a high mental stress side of military nursing. “We never knew what was happening outside of our compound. We would hear groundfire close by when working nights and during blackouts. I worried about my fiancé who was a Company Commander of a Mechanized Infantry Unit with the 4th Division on the other side of Peiku. I worried about rats coming into our ‘hootch’ or living quarters and rocket attacks.”
Mary Breed-Army Nurse Corps
“My brother was wounded in Vietnam and my friend from church, as well as my girlfriend’s brother, were both killed in Vietnam,” said Mary Breed. “That is why I volunteered as a nurse to serve in the Army. I graduated from nursing school at the Swedish Hospital in Minneapolis in 1969 and arrived in Bien Hoa, Vietnam, on September 5, 1970.” She worked as an OR nurse at the 95th Evac Hospital in DaNang and the 18th Surgical Hospital in Quang Tri.
“You can never prepare for war. You do not understand a war until you are there and in it,” Mary described. “I still cry when I think of Vietnam and certain instances. Everybody that goes to war goes through PTSD because war is just not normal.”
What was not normal was Mary’s 24th birthday in Vietnam. “I was cutting a birthday cake the cook had made when we heard a radio call that Hill 950, west of Quang Tri Provence, was getting run over with mortars,” Mary recalled. “Our hospital sent two “Dust Offs” or Medevac helicopters. The fighting was intense and they could only get in with one helicopter that only evacuated one of three Americans. One soldier was later deemed missing in action and the other a POW. Back at the hospital, we awaited the chopper to return, which was tenuous because the chopper was being shot at and had to make an emergency landing at Khe Sahn. It turned out to be a good birthday because our two crews made it home safe.”
Kay Bauer-Navy Nurse Corps
Kay Bauer grew up in St. Paul with thirteen brothers and sisters. Kay was a U.S. Navy Nurse for 35 years. She was one of two women in a forward surgical team of 7 people who worked in a provincial hospital in South Vietnam in 1966. “The hospital had no running water, no electricity and we had a generator in the operating room,” said Bauer in an interview. Even the walk to work from her quarters became dangerous. At one point she witnessed a U.S. helicopter getting shot down with bullets coming perilously close. “The bullets went past, whoosh, whoosh. I will move a little bit faster here,” Kay said.
Kay likes to remember the good times like christening a boat in a nearby harbor or immunizing local children. “The other things are just too hard,” she said.
Shortly after returning home, Kay received an invitation to lunch at the White House where she was honored by President Johnson and he signed legislation allowing women to reach the ranks of General or Admiral.
Kay retired as a Captain in the Navy Nurse Corps and still keeps in touch with the “awesome” women who served.
Watch an interview with Kay Bauuer that was part of Veteran Day news coverage from North Metro TV in Blaine, MN. Kay’s story begins at the .48-second mark in the segment.
Many forget that thousands of women also played a central role in the Vietnam War story. Tee It Up for the Troops was honored to recognize the Vietnam nurses and extends a huge thank you to all nurses and other females that served during the Vietnam War. God bless the Angels from Heaven!
After serving in the military, many veterans find it difficult to transition back to civilian life. They may feel isolated and disconnected from the civilian population, as they may have experienced traumatic events or formed close bonds with fellow servicemen and women while on active duty. Thus, veteran reunions or small group interactions are a critical part of healing.
The Bonds of Combat
The bonds of combat and brotherhood are forever. As many combat veterans will tell you, you may not have a blood brother or sister, but you can call on a military friend in any situation and they will be there to help. That’s what five Marine veterans, with shared hardships, found out recently when they were brought together through a reunion held at Operation Patriot Forward Operating Base (OPFOB).
Jeffrey Monssen served 30 years of active duty in the United States Marine Corps and retired as a Sergeant Major. His deployments include the Western Pacific, 2 deployments in support of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Somalia in support of Operation Restore Hope, Kuwait, 2 deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Afghanistan. A highly decorated Marine, Jeff also conducted multiple anti-drug Joint Task Force operations across the US and South America.
After 30 years of service, Jeff retired from the Marine Corps in 2018. He continues to serve veterans and their families as a member of the National Board of Directors for Tee It Up for the Troops. While attending the 2022 Tee It Up for the Troops REUNION, veteran reunions that reunite combat veterans with their battle buddies with golf as the backdrop, Jeff had an idea. “Golf is awesome, but some people don’t golf,” Jeff said. “Perhaps we could bring a smaller group of combat veterans together by connecting them through other outdoor activities and the shared sense of military struggles they have in common,” added Jeff. So, he set out on a mission to do so and investigate the concept.
Connecting Through The Great Outdoors
That’s when Jeff learned about Operation Patriots FOB (Forward Operating Base.) Operation Patriots FOB (OPFOB) is a non-profit, operating on 268 acres in Ridgeland, South Carolina, with a mission to create and foster positive experiences for veterans by connecting through outdoor and recreational activities. A place where peers can engage in a comfortable and relaxed environment.
The Tee It Up for the Troops signature REUNION program is held annually at Reunion Resort & Golf Club in Kissimmee, Florida, bringing together about 60 combat veterans and their spouses or caregivers collectively who break up into small group discussions throughout their days together. Small group interaction is highly effective in getting veterans to open up with each other. The event at OPFOB, with just five in attendance, was the first small group reunion organized by Tee It Up for the Troops to further analyze small group interaction of combat veterans.
Monssen pulled together five Marines that had fought with him during some of the deadliest periods of combat in Kuwait, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan to share their incredible experience and unbreakable brotherly love. The friends have known each other for 30 years, but the last time they had been together as a group was 10 years ago at a wedding. OPFOB was an opportunity for the comrades to get together for several days by themselves to talk, relax, take deep breaths, and feel comfortable with trusted buddies.
On April 19, 2023, the brothers in arms, now scattered in different parts of the country, reunited to reconnect, regroup, and refocus. They arrived to spend four days together at the OPFOB sanctuary and playground. They were now face to face, could wrap arms around one another, and share hardships and happy times too.
“Bringing veterans to a place they know, like this wonderful outdoor recreational setting, makes us feel confident and comfortable,” said Jeff. “To hunt, fish, shoot, sit by a fire with those who understand you the most…nothing can compare.”
The property is a beautifully rustic and peaceful space. There is a barn, a bunkhouse, a rifle and pistol range, skeet shoot, and stocked ponds. On the property and throughout the local community are opportunities for veterans and first responders to access both fresh and saltwater fishing. Attendees can participate in various hunting sports including pheasant, dove, quail, deer, turkey, and hog.
Jeff’s group spent time on the gun range, drove ATV vehicles, and went hog hunting. Their fishing trip was canceled due to weather, but they made the most out of that day by going to a nearby air show and touring Parris Island, the famous Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina.
Yet, it was the fireside chats each evening that brought them the closest and brought about the unvarnished truth. The straightforward truth about how they were shot at and lost battle buddies to combat. And how they have come back, and some parts of their lives are very tough due to all the trauma they experienced and they’re still losing friends to suicide. And how they deal with it in the privacy of their own lives.
Sitting around the campfire provided a sense of security, warmth, and comfort for this group of Marines to let their guard down. Being around the fire and staring into the dancing flames put them into a relaxed trance where they just started talking, remembering, and healing. It was also a time to remember those they had lost and a chance to raise a glass and toast to them.
Reuniting Veterans with Small Group Interactions is Healing
Many veterans returning from recent conflicts and prior service eras continue to have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other invisible wounds of war. Studies have shown that veterans benefit from small group interaction and support, including social support, purpose and meaning, normalization of symptoms and hope, and therapeutic benefits. Reuniting veterans together in small group interactions is highly effective and offers the opportunity to normalize PTSD symptoms by engaging with other individuals who have experienced similar trauma symptoms.
Conversely, the unvarnished truth is not all doom and gloom. This band of brothers also talked about the happy times in their lives. The days always ended on a high note, and everyone gets recharged.
Veterans need each other to heal. They also need a safe, comfortable place for the unvarnished truth to be told to help that healing. “Reunions and small group interactions for combat veterans positively impact the rest of their lives,” Monssen concluded.
Please Help a Veteran Refocus at a REUNION
There are zero out-of-pocket costs to our participants who attend our reunions thanks to our generous donors. Tee It Up for the Troops is inspired to see how businesses are recognizing the importance of supporting our nation’s veterans. If you would like to open the door to a fresh new mindset and outlook on life for our country’s veterans, PLEASE Donate Today Here.
Tee It Up for the Troops charity golf events across the USA passionately embrace a patriotic tribute to American heroes. They are truly a red, white, and blue one-of-a-kind experience that honors those who have defended our nation’s freedom. During July, when we celebrate Independence Day, we wanted to share an impactful video from our Desert Mountain event in Arizona held in May.
Please take 2 minutes to watch this inspirational video. It was produced by our Desert Mountain event organizers and will give you a great feeling as you celebrate and honor the heroes to whom we owe our freedom, peace, and happiness. You will also see key moments that are reflected in all of our patriotic charity events.
The Opening Ceremony is a tradition at Tee It Up for the Troops events that are a patriotic tribute to American heroes who have, and continue to, put their lives at risk on the frontline. This opening ceremony sets a patriotic tone for the day, honors our veterans, and reminds everyone why they are a Tee It Up for the Troops event. It is an opportunity for sponsors, participants, and attendees to celebrate patriotic pride.
Our military is built on traditions, customs, and manners, and so too are our military charity events. With the 657+ events that have been held in over 40 states, each Tee It Up for the Troops opening ceremony is uniquely planned by each local community planning committee. While no two opening ceremonies are ever the same, below are the elements and their meaning that you might find at a typical opening ceremony.
• Bagpiper: Many of our ceremonies start with a bagpiper in a traditional Scottish kilt playing and walking up the first fairway toward the attendees. Bagpipes have become associated with U.S. Military memorial services, retirements, or changes of command on account of their connection with Scottish martial history. As early as the 14th century, Scottish warriors used musical instruments—mostly horns—to intimidate their English adversaries.
• Invocation by Military Chaplain: An invocation prayer or request for the spiritual presence and blessing of God in the event.
• Soloists Ssing the National Anthem and God Bless America: We all know the great tale of our national anthem being written in the wake of the battle with the British in 1814, but did you know God Bless America was written by a Russian immigrant serving in the US Army during the first world war? None other than Irving Berlin—one of the most successful and beloved American songwriters of the 20th century—penned this tune to celebrate the nation he loved dearly.
• Presentation of Colors by Honor Guard / Color Guard: While we no longer carry colors into battle—during which they served a crucial communication function—the presentation of colors ceremony still plays an important role in keeping national and unit traditions alive.
• Moment of Silence: The moment of silence is a time-honored tradition to create a space for reflection and respect—and there’s plenty of that to go around during a Tee It Up for the Troops opening ceremony, a patriotic tribute to American heroes.
• Rifle Volley: Typically done in three volleys by an odd number of members, rifle and other gun salutes are common across the world for honoring service members, royalty, and foreign dignitaries.
• Gold-Star Family Recognition: Gold Star Families are relatives of US military members who have died in battle. A wreath is laid at the ceremony and attending parents, spouses, children, or other family members can carry a rose to lay on the wreath.
• Honoring Veterans in Attendance: All attending veterans are recognized and honored for their service during the ceremony.
• Taps: Often played at military funerals and other events like wreath-laying ceremonies, this bugle call (it’s not a song) has its origins in the Civil War.
• Retire the Colors: Retiring the colors marks the end of the ceremony, during which the color guard retrieves the colors and removes them respectfully.
Some of our events have additional symbols and demonstrations of patriotism that pay tribute to American heroes who continue to put their lives at risk on the frontline.
• Static Displays: military vehicles, fire engines with U.S. flags at the entrance or on a hole.
• Helicopter or parachute landing to mark the start of the ceremony.
• Video Link / Teleconference of deployed units.
• Patriotic Motorcycle Association Riders: Some riders participate in the ceremony by holding US Flags around the staging area.
• White Dove Release: White doves are a widely recognized symbol of peace and hope. A white dove release incorporates this powerful symbol into the ceremony honoring our veterans and what they’ve fought for.
• Bald Eagle on Display: The Bald Eagle became the national emblem of the United States of America in 1782. The fierce beauty and proud independence of this great bird aptly symbolize the strength and freedom of America, that same strength and freedom that is found in the United States Armed Forces.
• Flyover: The first military flyover took place during the 1918 World Series. Today’s military flyovers serve to promote and honor our armed services. The missing man formation is an aerial “salute” performed during a flyover and is typically in memory of a fallen pilot, a well-known military service member, or a veteran.
Opening ceremonies at Tee It Up for the Troops events are one-of-a-kind experiences. Without pretension, with utmost respect and dignity, they’re a chance for your community to honor veterans in your own unique way. Communities across the United States have gathered to support our troops. Get together with your community today to start planning your own event!
Start an Event: We’ll help you set up your own community event to raise funds for our veterans.
Find an Event: Tee It Up for the Troops events happen in almost every state! Find one near you today and participate!
Donate:Donate to support our innovative REUNION program, which pays for combat veterans to reunite with their old comrades to help them overcome the hidden wounds of war.
Thank you to all our golf club partners and event organizers that pay tribute to American heroes by hosting a Tee It Up for the Troops event!
Ever since he was a little kid, Rob Murafsky, from Metuchen, New Jersey wanted to join the Army as an infantryman and did so right out of high school in 2002. Richard Ranno grew up in New England and was also an Army infantryman who joined a year later in 2003.
Military Buddies, Rob and Richard, served together in Alpha Company, 1st Armored Division in Baumholder, Germany. They would hang out all the time in their off time and travel around Germany when off duty. This duo had many great times together and made lasting memories.
Military Buddies Both Deployed to Iraq
Corporal Team Leader Ranno and Specialist Murafsky were deployed to Iraq in January 2006. Rob was a squad automatic weapon (SAW) gunner and Richard was a rifleman and driver. These military buddies were now on different schedules and with less free time, however, they would still hang out, watch movies, go to the gym, and just talk whenever they could.
In August 2006, Richard was deployed into a known, active, and hostile environment in the city of Hīt, Iraq. His squad was on a three-day SKT (Small Kill Team) mission in Hīt, primarily focused on providing surveillance to a dangerous area where combatants were placing anti-tank mines and organizing other small arms attacks. Richard and a small group of soldiers were positioned inside a second story of a building watching & waiting.
Attacks against the American-led forces in this area of Iraq were at an all-time high, and nothing could be worse than what Richard was about to see and experience.
A Chaotic and Unimaginable Scene
On the third day, while on observation in that second-story building, a patrol of Abrams tanks rolled into the area. One of the tanks was hit by an anti-tank mine destroying it and killing the driver and severely hurting the crew.
Frenzied Iraqi locals grabbed the severed arm of the dead American soldier and start dancing in the street. Hundreds of locals converged on the area, partying and rejoicing that they had killed US troops.
“We wanted desperately to leave our hiding place and rescue the bodies of the US soldiers who had died,” Richard remembers. “We were told to STAY in POSITION and OBSERVE.” As the crowd grew more restless, they started to recover parts of the Abrams tank. At that time, it was just a vast mob, and we watched from the second story directly above them.”
Eventually, a Quick Reaction Force (QRF), arrived and Rob and other soldiers dismounted the vehicles. They immediately came under fire from all sides.
Corporal Richards’s unit inside the building was still told to hold its position. The crowd dispersed, taking the body parts of the fallen with them. More troops were dispatched to the area as the firefight grew and grew. Richard’s team engaged all enemies they could see from their rooftop and second-story positions.
During these chaotic few moments, a sniper shot and hit Rob in the face.
Richard’s team was finally ordered to break their position and prepare to exit. With the firefight still going on, they grabbed their gear, left the second-story position, and went out to street level where quick approaching tanks picked them up.
Military Buddies Who Fought Together Separated
“Rob was already gone after we evacuated the area and when we returned to the base, I learned he was medevacked out of Iraq for care,” Richard said. These military buddies never saw each other again while in the service.
The shot Rob took to the face caused him to lose his right eye and produced a lot of damage to nerves and the bones in his face. After being medevacked out of Iraq, he was eventually medically retired from the Army.
“I found out later that Richard was on a rooftop nearby and saw everything happen,” Rob said. “I am grateful that he was there. He saw what happened that day and was able to tell me what he saw and was able to fill in some gaps from that day. However, I am sad that he had to see that. I would not wish that upon anyone.”
PTSD Due to War
“I lost all my Army buddies’ contact information because none of my personal belongings ever made it back to me,” said Rob. “I fell into a deep depression because of PTSD. I was destroying myself by isolating myself from everyone, drinking a lot, and lying to myself that I was OK when I knew I was far from that. After years of trying therapies and medications, I got myself on a better path.”
Richard also suffers from PTSD and guilt from what he saw and experienced in Iraq. “I still carry a lot of guilt from that day,” said Richard. “If we had been authorized to recover the bodies from the beginning, those soldiers would have been brought back to their families, and Rob would never have gotten hurt. It was the most challenging day of my life, and I will never forgive myself for choosing to follow orders over doing what is right.”
Military Buddies Reunited After 16 Long Years
It would be about 16 years after that harrowing day before these battle buddies would get to see each other at Tee It Up for the Troops’REUNION and spend a good stretch of time together.
REUNIONprovides the opportunity for combat veterans to have a one-on-one reunion with a battle buddy over the course of several days in a secure and relaxing resort environment. Warriors benefit from a variety of helpful breakout sessions meant to support a healthy lifestyle. They also can spend therapeutic time on the golf course with their battle buddy and other supportive individuals. Spouses and caregivers enjoy time healing together while discussing problem-solving, self-care techniques, resource sharing, and much more.
“Both Richard and I have suffered from PTSD,” Rob said. “Once we reconnected and found each other, I would share things with Richard that had helped me out and he would share what has helped him so we could both try different things. However, talking to each other face to face at REUNION was probably the biggest help for both of us.”
Rob added, “The best thing about REUNION is everything from the first day to the last day. From reconnecting with your battle buddy, being on the golf course- which made me feel calm and at peace being outside- meeting new people, other veterans, and hearing what they have done to help themselves and hearing their stories.”
Richard says the group chats at REUNION were most beneficial. “Hearing and sharing stories helps us process our experience. Sharing our stories can also help civilians understand what service members go through and promote greater understanding and empathy. And connecting personally with other veterans builds bonds. “
“I can’t tell you how much Rob and I benefited, talked, and healed from the experience at Reunion 2023,” added Richard.
Having the opportunity to reconnect with friends who were there with you in combat is a therapeutic experience for attendees. Warriors can “open up,” talk, and discuss more easily the things that are bothering them.
Although Rob and Richard still fight the same fight against PTSD, they now have each other and the tools and other support they received at REUNION to help.
Tee It Up for the Troops REUNION
Tee It Up for the Troops relies on corporate REUNION sponsors and golfers to assist us in reuniting combat veterans, like Rob and Richard, and helping them transition from the battlefront to the homefront. This includes help for the hidden wounds of war like anxiety, depression, isolation, and suicide. If you are interested in helping more battle buddies reunite and changing lives, you can learn more, register or donate HERE.
When it comes to charitable giving, we know it’s important that you, as a donor or supporter, know you are giving to a top-rated charity- one where you trust the mission, integrity, and financial responsibility of the organization. Tee It Up for the Troops is proud to announce that it has once again received a coveted Four-Star rating from Charity Navigator.
Charity Navigator rates organizations on four key beacons: impact and results, accountability and finance, leadership and adaptability, and culture and community. As a top-rated charity, Tee It Up for the Troops earned a 100% for the Accountability & Finance beacon, leadership and adaptability, and culture and community. Charity Navigator has not yet developed an algorithm to estimate Tee It Up for the Troop’s programmatic impact.
According to Charity Navigator, receiving four out of a possible four stars indicates that an organization adheres to good governance and other best practices that minimize the chance of unethical activities and consistently executes its mission in a fiscally responsible way.
Check out our top-rated charity profile on Charity Navigator HERE.
Charity Navigator helps highlight what percentage of a monetary donation is going directly to the support of a top-rated charity and nonprofit’s mission. Charity Navigator has given Tee It Up for the Troops an Encompass Rating of 100 out of 100! A score of 75 or above indicates that a nonprofit is effective and transparent based on Charity Navigator’s criteria. This means you can give with confidence!
In addition to Charity Navigator, top-rated charity Tee It Up for the Troops, has received the highest level of recognition offered by highly regarded “non-profit watchdogs” including GreatNonprofits and GuideStar.
This exceptional designation from Charity Navigator differentiates Tee It Up for the Troops and demonstrates to the public it is worthy of their trust. As a valued supporter, you can have trust and confidence that we will be excellent stewards of your money.
Top-rated charity Tee It Up for the Troops has once again earned a Platinum Seal of Transparency, the highest level of recognition offered by GuideStar.The Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStarindicates that a non-profit shares clear and essential information with the public about its goals, strategies, capabilities, and achievements that highlight the difference the organization is making in the world.
Tee It Up for the Troops is committed to transparency and fiscal responsibility. We are pleased to earn a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, the highest level of recognition offered by GuideStar, the world’s largest source of nonprofit information.
“I encourage you to visit our nonprofit profile on GuideStar to see what we’re all about,” says Tim Wegscheid, President & Executive Director of Tee It Up for the Troops. “We’re thrilled once again to receive the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar. The associated benefits help us communicate our organization’s exciting initiatives and demonstrate transparency.”
The Platinum Seal of Transparency demonstrates Tee It Up for the Troop’s exceptional trustworthiness, financial strength, fiscal management best practices, and tangible successful outcomes in its mission as a veterans’ support organization to honor, remember, respect, and support all those who serve(d) in the Armed Forces for this great nation.
Here is one of Tee It Up for the Troops’ external reviews you can view on GuideStar:
“An Iraq war battle buddy of mine reached out to me and asked if me and my wife would like to participate in a golf outing with him. It had been over 10 years since I had last seen him in Iraq. Of course I said yes. It turned out to be a wonderful and healing event.
Tee it up for the Troops provided everything, including round trip airfare, lodging, meals, golf, and the opportunity to reunite with my old friend and meet new ones. As a disabled veteran, it can sometimes be difficult to open up and talk about some of the things that we experienced. Tee it up for the Troops provided a wonderful, comfortable, and fun atmosphere to provide a healing experience. A wonderful and excellent organization.”
“It’s great teaming up with E-Z-GO and the Fisher House Foundation and working together to make our heroes’ lives better,” said Tim Wegscheid, President & Executive Director for Tee It Up for the Troops. “I truly believe our veterans and their families are entitled to be taken care of, and donating these vehicles is just one way we do that.”
For the last eleven years, Tee It Up for the Troops and E-Z-GO, in partnership with E-Z-GO distributor Versatile Vehicles of Prior Lake, Minn., has delivered several vehicles a year to Fisher Houses across the nation. The first was delivered to the Augusta VA Medical Center in Georgia in 2012, with others reaching the East Coast’s Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland, the West Coast’s Camp Pendleton in California, and midwestern Fisher Houses in Milwaukee, Wisc. and Minneapolis, Minnesota. This month, Tee It Up for the Troops Donates the 25th Golf Cart to the Fisher House Foundation with the destination of Fisher House of Columbia, South Carolina.
Fisher Houses are beautiful homes built and donated by the Fisher House Foundation to the military and the Department of Veterans Affairs. These homes enable family members to stay free of charge and be close to a loved one during hospitalization for an injury, illness, or disease.
The customized and street-ready golf carts will allow patients and their family members to travel from the veteran’s hospital where they are receiving treatment to their local Fisher House or other therapeutic areas without getting in and out of a vehicle or navigating large parking areas.
Tee It Up for the Troops partners with Textron Specialized Vehicles Inc., the manufacturer of E-Z-GO vehicles, to donate these customized vehicles to each new Fisher House.
“Tee It Up for the Troops has been there for us and has provided a vehicle to every one of our houses on a VA property that has needed one,” said Brian Gawne, Vice President of Community Relations for Fisher House Foundation. “Parking and getting around on a VA campus is always a challenge, and some families are not mobile. Thanks to Tee It Up for the Troops and E-Z-GO, these cars are a godsend when families are facing a tough medical crisis.”
“Electric shuttles that are quiet and efficient can take a whole family or injured warfighter from a Fisher House around the campus to receive therapy or see a doctor,” said Brandon Haddock, Director, Communications at Textron Specialized Vehicles. “The vehicles can traverse facility paths, parking lots, and even into the entry of a VA hospital. It’s great to see how excited people are about the shuttles and to give the veterans something they really need.”
“These stretch electric shuttles, which can comfortably accommodate six passengers, are customized with many added features for the comfort and safety of veterans,” said Gaby Accad, owner of Versatile Vehicles, whose distributorship customizes many of the Fisher House vehicles. Additions include safety lights, turn signals, a rear seat that can convert to a flatbed to carry a wheelchair or other equipment, and a retractable windshield to block wind and rain.
Accad works with local companies to donate custom features, including red, white, and blue premium seats embroidered with the Tee It Up for the Troops logo, decals that are applied to the custom-painted cars, and shipping of the cars at donated or reduced rates to their destination.