20 Veterans a Day—Now, More than Ever, Veteran Suicide Awareness Is Paramount


  • According to a 2019 Congressional Research Service Report titled “Recent Trends in Active Duty Military Deaths,” between 2006 and 2018, 3,863 active duty service members ended their own lives. This is more than service members who were killed in action (2,710) and service members who died by wounds received (886) combined.
  • According to a 2016 report from the Office of Suicide Prevention, while veterans account for only 8.5% of the U.S. population, 18% of all adult suicides in the United States are veterans, or about 20 veteran suicides per day.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and we at Tee It Up for the Troops observe the World Suicide Prevention Day each year on September 10. In fact, suicide prevention is one of the six pillars that Tee It Up for the Troops was built on.

The facts are in front of us, and the number of veteran suicides compared to the civilian population is disproportionately high.  Twenty veterans a day is 20 too many. Veteran suicide awareness is the war in front of us, a daily battle that is on the forefront of our organization’s efforts and resources. Twenty veterans a day are dying by their own hands. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for our fallen heroes. For every 20 who daily fall, there are scores upon scores who daily struggle, who daily fight to live another day. These are the men and women we present to you today. These are the lives we, together, are fighting for.

As COVID-19 Crisis Continues, Suicide Risk for Veterans Grows

The preceding numbers on veteran suicide are the latest available to us, but the world has dramatically changed since then. Those 20 veterans a day do not include the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit America tremendously hard. Across the globe, and certainly here at home, we have seen not only the physical toll of this virus, but also the mental toll on the general population. How much more so for our veteran brothers and sisters who have already been fighting to keep their mental acuity strong and sound? The year 2020 has been incredibly brutal for these individuals. We propose to make a difference, and we are asking for your help.

Our Tee It Up for the Troops events and REUNION program are instrumental in bringing more awareness to veteran suicide, help fund our efforts, and are powerful ways for you, your company, and your foundation to make a significant difference in a veteran’s daily life. We know that a healthy mental well-being is tied to activating our bodies as much as we are able, being outside, and with the opportunity to socialize. Our events give these veterans something they can enjoy with brothers/sisters outside of war.

You can be the difference in a veteran’s life. Donate today or find an event near you!

Grant Recipient SPOTLIGHT: Service Dogs

For dog lovers, the unconditional love of a canine companion heals the soul. For veterans suffering with debilitating physical and mental disorders, the canine companion not only brings independence and a feeling of safety, but also heals our warriors and saves lives by giving a new measure of hope and happiness. Service dogs are devoted companions, helpers, aides, best friends and a close member of their family.

While serving in Afghanistan, Airborne Infantryman and Tee It Up for the Troops supporter and warrior Reid Erickson was injured from multiple IED’s, an anti-tank missile, bomb blasts and was also shot. His constant companion and service dog, Melton, helps him cope with blackouts, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Like many other combat veterans, Melton has given Reid a reason to wake up everyday and is a distraction from the flashbacks of combat.

Because we believe that every hero deserves to heal, Tee It Up for the Troops supports several service dog organizations, including those highlighted below. These organizations help ensure that hope and happiness are obtainable for our disabled American veterans.

K9s For Warriors provides service canines to warriors suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and/or military sexual trauma as a result of military service post 9/11. Their goal is to empower warriors to return to civilian life with dignity and independence. They are the nation’s largest provider of service dogs for disabled American veterans.

Warrior Canine Connection enlists recovering warriors in a therapeutic mission to train highly-skilled service dogs that provide years of mobility and social support to veterans with disabilities. By interacting with the dogs as they move from puppyhood to training to adult service dogs, Warrior Trainers benefit from a physiological and psychological animal-human connection. As a result of their efforts, veterans with disabilities receive the finest in trained service dogs.

The VA has engaged in a multi-year study into the use of service dogs for PTSD, but they have not announced their conclusions and deny funding them as a treatment  for PTSD. It’s only through extraordinary personal effort and grants, that thousands of vets have been paired with trained service dogs and the outcomes have been life changing.

The cost of service dog programs per dog is approximately $27,000 to train and place a service dog. Every hero deserves to heal! Help our veterans who need a highly-trained canine teammate by donating to Tee It Up for the Troops here: www.teeitupforthetroops.org/donate-tee-troops


Homeless Vets: Why We All Should Care!

Our Mission to Aid Veterans with Housing, Homelessness and More

Tee It Up for the Troops supports several programs for veterans who have experienced homelessness and need additional support maintaining housing including transitional and comfort housing while getting treatment. In 2018, Tee It Up for the Troops granted over a quarter of a million dollars to veteran housing organizations. Your donations to Tee It Up for the Troops are making a difference not only in Housing & Homelessness for Veterans, but also in our other targeted pillars of need including, Suicide Awareness and Prevention, Treatment of PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injuries, Employment, Golf & Sports Rehabilitation, and Family and Caregiver Support.

In a single night in January 2018, there were nearly 38,000 veterans experiencing homelessness and staying in shelters across our nation, according to a recent Department of Housing and Urban Development report. States with the highest unsheltered veterans are California, Mississippi, Oregon, Hawaii, and Washington.  Research shows that lack of stable housing for veterans presents a significant challenge in obtaining gainful employment and eliminating the barriers and issues that are at the root of homelessness.

The Central Illinois Tee It Up for the Troops event (featured in this issue), allocates part of their proceeds to benefit three local veteran housing programs: General Wayne A. Downing Home for Veterans which provides permanent housing for homeless U.S. Military veterans with an honorable discharge and a diagnosed disability; South Side Office of Concern Veterans Haven, a local shelter for homeless veterans; and Fuller Center dedicated to helping military veteran homeowners make repairs on their homes.

Fisher House Foundation, which provides comfort homes throughout the U.S. where military & veterans families can stay free of charge while a loved one is in the hospital, and Warrior Foundation Freedom Station in San Diego, CA, providing transitional housing designed to assist veterans and their families during both recovery and transition processes, are both major beneficiaries of funds raised at golf events nationwide by Tee It Up for the Troops.

Freedom Station Courtyard
Tee It Up for the Troops supports Warrior Foundation Freedom Station, a unique housing complex designed to provide a training ground for warriors who are making the transition from medically retired to contributing civilian.

Warrior Foundation Freedom Station is the brainchild of Sandy Lehmkuhler, a Navy wife. While volunteering at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, Sandy discovered the difficulties encountered by ill and wounded warriors, making the transition back to civilian life. In 2011, her foundation proudly opened Freedom Station, a unique housing facility and recovery support center for warriors transitioning out of the military.

There are far too many homeless who are veterans…and there’s one thing we should all agree on – you should not be a hero in the Gulf War or any other conflict and be homeless in America. When you support Tee It Up for the Troops by participating in one of our events or making a donation to veterans we serve, you are helping our ill, injured, and medically retired warriors with dignified housing support. These courageous men and women have performed selfless acts to ensure our freedom. Help us to help them by making a contribution at: www.teeitupforthetroops.org/donate-tee-troops/

Tee It Up for the Troops Donates 20th E-Z-GO Vehicle to Fisher House Foundation to Assist Disabled Veterans and Their Families

Working Together to Make Our Heroes’ Lives Better

A golf car is a nice amenity on the golf course, but for families of veterans and active duty service members who are being treated at Department of Defense (DOD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers, golf cars are a valuable and needed mode of transportation. With limited parking and specialized transportation needs, many veterans and their elderly family members are unable to make the journey around a VA hospital campus.

That’s why Tee It Up for the Troops, with their national headquarters in Burnsville, Minn., has partnered with Textron Specialized Vehicles Inc., a Textron Inc. (NYSE:TXT) company, manufacturer of E-Z-GO vehicles, to donate customized vehicles to Fisher House, a foundation that provides comfort homes where military and veteran families can stay free of charge. Tee It Up for the Troops has donated a “battalion” of E-Z-GO vehicles to Fisher House facilities nationwide, with the recent 20th new ride delivered to the VA Palo Alto Healthcare System in California.

For the last seven years, Tee It Up for the Troops and E-Z-GO, in partnership with E-Z-GO distributor Versatile Vehicles of Prior Lake, Minn., have 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.

“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.”

“Recently we had a veteran discharged from the hospital after kidney removal surgery and it would have been extremely painful for him to bend into a vehicle to get back to Fisher House,” said Jenny Hall, Manager of the Alaska Fisher House. “The golf car allowed him to easily slide in and out at a comfortable height with minimal pain.”

“It’s great teaming up with E-Z-GO 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.”

Tee It Up for the Troops has hosted 500 fundraising events in over 40 states over the last 15 years, allowing the non-profit organization to donate over $10 million to military service organizations that provide critically needed services to combat veterans and their families.

“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.

“What this country has provided to me, it’s the least I can do for our soldiers who put their lives on the line for us to enjoy our freedom and the things we cherish in this country,” Accad said.

Tee It Up for the Troops and E-Z-GO first learned of the need for a small, efficient vehicle to transport wounded warriors in 2011, when they shipped a vehicle to a military base in Afghanistan to help move soldiers to field hospitals and to get those recovering from injuries around the base. From there, the need to meet increased demands for transport of returning service members with disabilities and their families escalated stateside.

“This is just a continuation of our support for veterans who do incredible things for our country,” Wegscheid said of the vehicles.



Grant Recipient SPOTLIGHT: Blue Star Families

Blue Star Families builds communities that support military families by connecting research and data to programs and solutions, including career development tools, local community events for families, and caregiver support. Since its inception in 2009, Blue Star Families has engaged tens of thousands of volunteers and serves more than 1.5 million military family members.  Tee It Up for the Troops is proud to partner with Blue Star Families and support such important work.

Tee It Up for the Troops REUNION Outreach Program not only reunites combat veterans, it also includes activities specifically designed to help caregivers with their own well-being.

During Tee It Up for the Troops 2019 REUNION Program in Orlando, Florida, Blue Star Families staff designed and led two breakout sessions for caregivers. In the first session, they led participants through a workshop to create vision boards for the year ahead. This session started by having participants take a PsychArmor Institute course titled, “Self Care,” followed by meaningful discussion and a hands-on activity of creating vision boards focused on the caregiver’s individual health and wellness goals, career goals, and personal/family aspirations and/or goals. After the session, each participant received a caregiver binder of supplies and resources.

The second session focused on careers for caregivers and resources that are available to them but might not be known including the importance of networking, Blue Star Families online career portal and Spouseforce. Spouseforce is an exciting, new, online portal creating connections between military spouses, training partners and employers.

These sessions were impactful for the attending caregivers, as indicated in the following comments:
– “Blue Star Families were amazing!”
– “The best part was talking with other caregivers who “get it”, sharing resources and support for each other!”

Connecting with the caregivers was such an amazing experience,” said Erika Clark, Blue Star Families Careers Manager. “To hear stories of their journey and see their excitement during our sessions was an unbelievable experience. Blue Star Families was excited to be a part of this REUNION and help the caregivers focus on themselves.”

Vicky Perkins, Blue Star Families Solutions Manager and one of the leaders of the breakout sessions at REUNION, had this to say: “The REUNION was such a fantastic event to be a part of. I loved connecting with the caregivers during our sessions and hearing their personal stories. Their commitment to their spouse and to taking care of their families was very important and that showed in our discussions. I love that Tee It Up for the Troops offers an opportunity like REUNION for warriors to connect with comrades and battle buddies from all over the country that they may not have seen or talked to in years. The overall attitude was happiness and contentment. It was amazing, and I am glad that Blue Star Families was invited to lead two workshops where the caregivers could focus on themselves even for just a few short hours.”

Thank you, Erika, Vicky and the entire Blue Star Families team for leading these empowering sessions for caregivers at REUNION!

For more information, visit bluestarfam.org.

Grant Recipient SPOTLIGHT: Operation Canyon Rising

Operation Canyon Rising is an expedition for disabled veterans to hike the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim as motivation to aid in their rehabilitation and provide them with a monumental goal that, once achieved, gives them incentive to lead a fulfilling life.

Starting from the North rim is symbolic of how life was before their injury or illness. Then by hiking down the floor of the canyon, the depths of the realization of the permanent realities of the new disability and the monumental recovery ahead are reached. Finally, climbing out of the canyon on the South rim gives the analogy of “RISING UP” to meet their life-long challenge, learning to overcome limitations and gaining hope for both the veteran and others they are closely associated with.

Tee It Up for the Troops sponsorship of this expedition helped six individuals make this rim to rim journey including two below the knee amputees, one above the knee amputee, one arm amputee, one Gold Star widow and one Gold Star sister.

Founder Steve Connolly, Lt. Col. (Ret) USAF Reserves, had this to say: “This was probably the most impactful expedition I have done so far! I cannot thank you enough, yet again, for your support. The combination of the disabled veterans with the Gold Star family members was unbelievable. As we got to the bottom of the canyon and they opened up about their lows in life, each member of the team found a way to connect with others on the team. They formed beautiful bonds and really helped to heal each other. Many were suicidal and in talking with each other, they saw different points of views, common grounds of hurt and reasons to go on in life. Our motto of RISE UP on September 11th was taken to heart and they all left this journey with a purpose in life and a path forward. I just want you to know that you truly made a difference in their lives, and in sponsoring this expedition, you showed them that people out there really do care about them and that means a lot!”

On September 11, 2018, as the group hiked out of the canyon, their motto of “RISE UP” to face life’s challenges was taken to heart as they all left this journey with a purpose in life and a path forward… just as our country did after the terrorist attacks 17 years ago on that same date.

If you would like to read the bios of these brave participants or learn more about Operation Canyon Rising, click here.

We’re Hiring!! Join us and make a difference in the lives of all those who serve(d)!

Are you the kind of person that cares about making a difference in the lives of all those who serve(d) in the Armed Forces for this great nation? If so, then you are exactly the kind of person we are looking for! Tee It Up for the Troops is currently hiring for an Office Assistant. Details regarding the position can be found below. Inquiries and resumes should be emailed to jodi@teeitupforthetroops.org.


Job Title: Office Assistant
Reports To: Director of Operations
Status: Non-Exempt, Part-time approximately 30 hours/week
Prepared Date: 10/2018

Military Veteran Status: Preferred

Location: Minneapolis, MN


Position exists to support the mission and goals of the national organization of Tee It Up for the Troops (TIUFTT). All actions and decisions must align with the overall mission to honor, remember, respect, and support all those who have served to protect our great nation.


This position will complete various office activities of TIUFTT by providing front and back office support.  Maintains various inventories, completes documents and correspondence, manages phone, mail and its distribution, arranges shipments and secures travel requests. Position will be responsible for the efficient operation of the National Office.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities

85% – Primary liaison, within the National Office, to ensure efficient and effective operation of this office.  Positively communicate with co-workers, visitors, and members of the Board. Support event requests for supplies and merchandise, manage warehouse, maintain inventory including storage of merchandise in the warehouse and the on-line store. Positively answer phones and properly direct inquiries. Open, sort and distribute mail daily, complete office shipments including merchandise/supplies for events. Maintain accurate Customer Relationship Management database.  Prepare internal and external documents as directed including [Board and Grant Committee] meeting documents. Follow up on Grant applications. Work alongside Event Manager and manage assigned tasks to ensure events receive committed items. Responsible for scheduling meetings, appointments and managing travel especially event travel.  This position will also assist the President and Director of Operations with key follow up tasks related to events, sponsorships, projects, Board members, warriors and other key constituents.

15% – Assist Event Manager, Warrior Veteran Coordinator, Bookkeeper, Event Leaders, Director of Operations and President with special requests and event activities as directed.

Effective oral, written and interpersonal skills, including the ability to positively communicate with event leaders, warriors, club managers, visitors, Board Members, vendors, sponsors, media, volunteers, and other team members of the National Office as well as the community at large.

Work Environment
Standard office environment, significant phone and computer work, occasional travel may be required with the ability to occasionally work non-traditional hours. Outdoor environment as needed for participation in events. Must be able to complete work with numerous interruptions. Ability to lift up to 50 lbs.

Education/Experience (Minimum)
High school diploma and three (3) years’ experience in an administrative role.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

Ability to work independently and be self-directed. Demonstrates initiative. Must also work effectively as part of a team.  Ability to maintain a high level of confidentiality. Possesses the ability to establish credibility, trust, and partnership both within the organization and with outside partners. Professional phone etiquette. Proficient in Office 365 Suite PC skills. Experience with Salesforce a plus.  Professional in dress, decisions, actions and interactions. Results oriented, with the ability to prioritize, work under pressure and meet deadlines.

Be Inspired by all that we can accomplish by “stepping up to the tee!”

We hope you enjoy this short video are are inspired by all that we can accomplish by “stepping up to the tee” and working together on behalf of.

Since 2005, Tee It Up for the Troops has hosted more than 415 fundraising events in over 40 states. With the generous support of sponsors and volunteers, these events have allowed us to donate over $9,000,000 to more than 325 veteran service organizations that provide critically needed services to help our veterans to heal, transition, grow and thrive. Tee It Up for the Troops targets its support across these critical areas of need:

  • Treatment of PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injuries: the hidden wounds of war
  • Suicide Awareness and Prevention: reducing veteran suicides
  • Employment: veteran unemployment rate is much higher than the national average
  • Sports and Recreation: both adaptive and rehabilitative
  • Family and Caregiver Support: strong family + strong caregiver = strong warrior
  • Housing: homelessness, plus transitional and comfort housing while receiving treatment

We also continue to strengthen veterans through our REUNION program in which we have reunited nearly 300 combat veterans who were separated due to battlefield injuries, changes in rehabilitation, or other reasons beyond their control.

In addition, we are honored to assist veterans in launching their own business through our Operation Heartfirst initiative with Anytime Fitness.


Anytime Fitness Franchise Opportunity near Fort Riley!

For the 4th year in a row, Tee It Up for the Troops is excited to present an opportunity for an approved veteran, National Guard member or reservist to become an Anytime Fitness Franchisee!  This opportunity is for the Fort Riley, KS area with the final location within that market to be chosen by the franchisee (based on location then available at the time of signing a franchise agreement).

We look forward to supporting the Anytime Fitness mission to “Get to a Healthier Place” and offering a unique program to help veterans, National Guard members and reservists to “heal, transition, grow and thrive” by becoming an Anytime Fitness Franchisee.

Tee It Up for the Troops will receive an annual donation from the highly reputable Operation HeartFirst Charitable Foundation. These donations will be used to assist selected veterans, National Guard members and/or reservists who submit applications and would not otherwise have the financial resources to become an Anytime Fitness Franchisee.

Tee It Up for the Troops will accept applications for grants through May 1st for the purpose of assisting with initial start-up capital to be used for the development of an Anytime Fitness franchise. These grants will consist of a cash grant (50 percent of the initial start-up investment up to $125,000) and a loan (remaining 50 percent of the amount needed for the initial investment up to $125,000). Anytime Fitness, LLC has agreed to waive its initial franchise fee and ongoing royalty payment related to this opportunity. Consideration will be given for veterans with service related disabilities.

Learn more here.

Tee It Up for the Troops Selects Third Operation HeartFirst™ Recipient to Open Anytime Fitness Franchise!

Tee It Up for the Troops is proud to announce the third recipient of a financial grant designed to help military veterans open their own Anytime Fitness gyms and provide additional employment opportunities for fellow veterans.

This year’s selected recipient, Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Hunt, retired as a United States Air Force Technical Sergeant in the Security Forces career field. Deployed six times during her 15 years of service, Liz said, “the gear never got lighter, the terrain never got easier to ruck through, and after listening to my squad talk about (and sometimes experiencing) back and knee pain, I realized the significance of not just keeping myself fit, but ensuring my squad was just as fit (if not more).” Thus began her dream of owning her own Anytime Fitness franchise!

Liz and her husband Corey, a 17 year Major in the Air Force, will use a $125,000 grant and a $125,000 loan as start-up capital to open an Anytime Fitness gym near Fort Rucker in Dothan, Alabama.

After learning that she had been selected, Liz pledged “I, on the core values the military raised me on, pledge to not only paint this town purple with Anytime Fitness’ motto, but to do right and remain humbled at organizations such as yours that never stop serving…that truly embrace the motto of carrying your brother/sister…”