Event SPOTLIGHT: Dataw Island’s Week Long Veterans Celebration supports Tee It Up for the Troops!

Dataw Island’s week-long Veterans Celebration thanked our Veterans of the Armed Forces in many joyous ways. The week kicked off with members lining 2.5 miles of roadways with 3,500 flags to set a patriotic ambiance on the island and the inspirational Opening Ceremony paid tribute to our Nation, the men and women of our military, and our cherished freedoms.

This year, the week-long event raised $53,775 (with donations still trickling in). Funds will be distributed to Tee It Up for the Troops and various other local veterans’ organizations.

Chris Fearn’s one-man Golf Marathon, which supported Tee It Up for the Troops, was an unbelievable battle of determination by Chris who fought the rain and wind elements under cart path only conditions and set a new, personal record of 227 holes golfed in one day!

Spotting for him, cheering him on, and occasionally holding an umbrella or drying a ball while he played through afternoon squalls, member volunteers were critical to his success of completing an astounding 227 holes! Fearn also attributes his success to the many veterans who came out to support him, several of whom he has coached for three years now as part of the On-Course Foundation’s Simpson Cup Team.

“It really is motivating to look over and see these guys here supporting me,” Fearn said. “I’m always so humbled for the opportunity to serve them in return for all they have done for us.”

The day concluded with a celebratory dinner provided by the Disabled American Veterans. Attendees were treated to a Lowcountry feast and enjoyed meeting many of the honored guests, including the Guests of Honor, DeWitt Osborne, of the Salute Military Golf Association and Jason Faircloth, founder of the Disable Golf Association of America, the first organization of its kind.

Tuesday kicked off with the Veterans March and Rally. Complete with a march of more than 100 veterans from all branches of the service, presentation of the colors, and a heartfelt performance of patriotic songs, including each of the armed service songs from each military branch and a beautiful rendition of our national anthem, performed by the Dataw Singers, a choral group led by Dataw member Tim McGrath.

A golf tournament for veterans of all ages and their supporters was played on Tuesday on both of the Dataw Island Golf Courses. The Veterans Golf Classic supports Tee it Up for the Troops with beneficiaries such as the Fisher House, Warfighter Sports, the On-Course Foundation, and the Warrior Canine Connection, to name just a few.

“Something magical happens when playing golf-hitting that little white ball down the fairway with your buddies pays therapeutic values and life lasting dividends for America’s wounded, disabled and injured warriors,” said event chair Col. Glenn Blackburn, US Army Ret. “It teaches them that they can improvise, adapt and overcome their disability and achieve success. Dataw Island provides a wonderful venue for them to ignite and display happiness.”

After a fun round of golf, attendees convened at a luncheon to celebrate the service and sacrifice of many men and women, which featured testimonies provided by wounded veterans, including an inspiring presentation by DeWitt, who told the teary-eyed crowd a story many of them could relate to all-too-well – a story of challenge, adversity, perseverance, and overcoming. Dataw was honed by the SCGA with the presentation of a framed flag and plaque. Another highlight each year is the presentation of the Quilt of Valor; this year, the labor of love was given to DeWitt as a thank you for his service and sacrifice. Dave Luzzi emceed the presentation of a patriotic golf bag to Bob Hopkins in recognition for all he does each year to serve fellow veterans.

The week was completed by a Veterans Breakfast with Col. Glenn Blackburn serving as speaker. Blackburn spoke about the evolution of Dataw Island’s efforts in support of veterans, including the contributions to helping wounded or disabled veterans regain their confidence and independence through the game of golf.

Michele Weaber, also a Dataw member, brought the crowd of veterans and their spouses to tears with an emotive reading of the poem, “Forever Proud and Free,” a reading which has been more than a year in the making. Prior to his passing, 2017 Veteran of the Year Jack Cummings had personally requested the reading.

A moment of silence was also held to honor Dataw veterans who have passed.

Another highlight included the naming of this year’s Dataw Island Veteran of the Year … Jim Morrissey! Morrissey has played an integral part in Dataw’s events and contributions for veterans in recent years. Morrissey served in the US Army through Vietnam and then, as a civilian, worked at LaGuardia Airport and was the first of his counterparts to make the call to shut down operations during the 9/11 attacks, quite possibly saving more lives.

Al Sears, also a Dataw member, was also recognized for his continued contributions. Presenting the award was event emcee Bo Tobin, who also thanked Bob “Hoppy” Hopkins for his ongoing contributions, and Dataw staff, particularly Dave Britton and Chris Fearn.

This year, SC Gov. Henry McMaster also made a Proclamation to name Nov. 6 as “Tee It Up for the Troops Day.” Col. Blackburn presented the Proclamation to Britton to hang in the Pro Shop for all to ap

Thank you Tee It Up for the Troops-Dataw Island organizers, volunteers, sponsors, supporters and veterans for your support of the Tee It Up for the Troops mission to honor, remember, respect and support all those who serve(d) in the Armed Forces of the United States and for helping our heroes! What a great Veterans Week of events!

Pledge your support to Chris and the “100 Holes of Golf” Marathon to support Tee It Up for the Troops!

Fellow Patriot,

Chris Fearn, Assistant Golf Pro Dataw Island Club, will be “stepping up to the tee” to golf “100 Holes of Golf” to support all those who serve(d) in the Armed Forces and needs your support! Chris’ goal is to raise $50,000 in support of the mission of Tee It Up for the Troops and his Heroes. In addition to supporting all those who serve with your tax-deductible donation, you will be entered into cumulative prize drawings based on your donation amount! Prizes are listed below or can be found via the following links:

Learn more and make your on-line donation via the following link: https://goo.gl/CiLHkm 

CLICK HERE to learn more and to mail in your donation.

Chris’s story:

Five years ago, when Chris began helping to run the Veteran’s Day event to support disabled Veterans, he was very moved by the disabled veterans that were their guests. Chris said, “the positive outlook that they have on life was so encouraging. Spending time with each one of them really motivated me and made me look at life in a different way. I knew then, that I wanted to do more to help.”

Chris Fearn, Assistant Golf Pro

When Chris came up with the idea of doing a golf marathon he had no idea the impact it was going to have, or how many individuals it would touch and help. The impact is what motivates him to continue to do a golf marathon every year which Chris says “is easy compared to the sacrifice of all those who serve(d). This is the least I can do for them!” When Chris gets tired while playing “100 Holes of Golf” he looks at the picture of his uncle who was killed in the Vietnam War, the picture of Dave Bagby a friend and disabled Veteran who passed away, or he just looks around at the disabled veterans that come out to support him and that is all the motivation he needs to keep going.

Chris will be “stepping up to the tee” at Dataw Island Club in St. Helena Island, South Carolina to play “100 Holes of Golf” in support of his Heroes and all those who serve(d)! All donations made to the “100 Holes of Golf” Marathon will go to Tee It Up for the Troops whose mission is to honor, remember, respect and support all those who serve(d) in the Armed Forces for our great nation.

 

PRIZE PACKAGES:

  • 9 Hole Club – Minimum $25 donation Your name entered into a drawing for your choice of a Men’s ¼ Zip or Women’s Full Zip jacket.
  • 18 Hole Club – Minimum $50 donation Your name entered into a drawing for a PING stand golf bag. This super lightweight bag has seven pockets for storage.
  • 36 Hole Club – Minimum $100 donation Your name entered into a drawing for a Stay and Play package at Reunion Resort in Orlando, FL.
  • 54 Hole Club – Minimum $250 donation Your name entered into a drawing for a Stay and Play package at the Hammock Beach Resort, along Florida’s Palm Coast.
  • 72 Hole Club – Minimum $500 donation Your name entered into a drawing for your choice from two Stay and Play packages at the beautiful Crystal Springs Resort, located in the rolling farmland of New Jersey.
  • 90 Hole Club – Minimum $750 donation Your name entered into a drawing for a 4 day – 3-night golf package for 4 to beautiful Dataw Island, South Carolina.
  • 100 Hole Club – Minimum $1000 donation Your name entered into a drawing for the Tee It Up for the Troops 8th annual REUNION event, held at the Reunion Resort, Kissimee FL, Jan 10-13, 2019.

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

Mission

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.

Summary

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.

Attributes
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.

Imperial Headwear Partners with Tee It Up for the Troops!

Bourbon, MO – Imperial Headwear, the #1 headwear brand for Private and Resort golf facilities as reported by the Association of Golf Merchandisers (AGM) in their Member Survey the last 3 consecutive years, announced a new partnership with national veterans non-profit, Tee It Up for the Troops (TIUFTT).

Imperial will become an “Official Headwear Partner of Tee It Up for the Troops” under the new agreement, and provide custom branded headwear for TIUFTT tournament participants and welcome packages.

“Tee It Up for the Troops is very appreciative of our partnership with Imperial Headwear,” said Tim Wegscheid, President & Executive Director of TIUFTT. “Imperial’s quality is second to none and we are excited that they are joining us in our mission to honor and support our United States veterans.”

Many TIUFTT tournaments across the country will be offering custom TIUFTT branded headwear by Imperial as tee gifts to their participants this season. Imperial will also be offering an online-exclusive collection of TIUFTT headwear on their website – ImperialSports.com – with a portion of proceeds given back to TIUFTT, which since its inception in 2005 has donated over $9 million to more than 325 veterans service organizations.

“Tee It Up for the Troops is doing terrific things for our active duty service members and our veterans,” said David Shaffer, VP Sales & Marketing at Imperial Headwear. “Imperial is happy to support them in their mission.”

Click here to view and shop the limited edition TIUFTT Collection: imperialsports.com/product-category/tee-it-up-for-the-troops

Jeff Morgan Joins National Board of Tee It Up for the Troops

Alexandria, VA – Club Managers Association of America and The Club Foundation Chief Executive Officer Jeff Morgan, FASAE, CAE, has been invited to join the Board of Directors for Tee It Up for the Troops for a three-year term. Tee It Up for the Troops is a non-profit organization committed to honor, respect, remember, and support all those who serve(d) in the Armed Forces for the United States.

Since October 1, 2014, Morgan has served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Club Managers Association of America (CMAA) and The Club Foundation (CF). He is an association executive who has held various executive management positions in trade and professional associations for more than 25 years. A Pennsylvania native, Morgan holds a bachelor’s degree in Business with a focus on finance and technology from Susquehanna University and a master of science in nonprofit management. Morgan is a Certified Association Executive and a member and Fellow of the American Society of Association Executives.

CMAA and CF have been longtime contributors and supporters to Tee It Up for the Troops. Since 2008, The Club Foundation has donated more than $128,000 to support its mission. Individually, many CMAA members have hosted TIUFTT fundraising events at their clubs around the country, as profiled in Club Management magazine.

Tim Wegscheid, Tee It Up for the Troops President and Executive Director, shared: “We are pleased to add Jeff to our organization and are confident that his skills, areas of expertise, and significant connections will make us a stronger organization as we strive to honor and support America’s military heroes!”

Jeff Morgan, FASAE, CAE, added “I’m honored to share my talents to benefit this great organization and help to further the mission to honor, remember, respect, and support all those who serve(d) in the Armed Forces for our great nation.”

Media Contacts: 
CMAA and The Club Foundation – Melissa Low, melissa.low@cmaa.org
Tee It Up for the Troops – Tim Wegscheid, tim@teeitupforthetroops.org

About CMAA and The Club Foundation

Club Management Association of AmericaThe Club Managers Association of America (CMAA) is the largest professional association for managers of membership clubs with 6,800 members throughout the US and internationally. Our managers lead more than 2,500 country, golf, athletic, city, faculty, military, town, and yacht clubs. The objectives of the association are to promote relationships between club management professionals and other similar professions; to encourage the education and advancement of members; and to provide the resources needed for club managers to operate efficiently and successfully. CMAA is headquartered in Alexandria, VA, with 43 professional chapters and more than 45 student chapters and colonies. Learn more at cmaa.org.

The Club Foundation

The Club Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, was established by CMAA in 1988. The Foundation seeks to fund the life cycle of a club manager’s career, providing financial support for five key areas: students, faculty, club managers, CMAA chapters and the club industry at large. It supports the advancement of club management professionals, funding industry education programs through scholarships and grants. Learn more at clubfoundation.org.

Adaptive Golf: A new mission for wounded warriors

A donation was made to the Beaufort Memorial Hospital Foundation to support their Adaptive Golf program on Parris Island from the proceeds of the inaugural Tee It Up for the Troops – Dataw Island event.

Following is an article written by Rex Hoggard, from the Golf Channel about the impact this program has had on one Marines life.

May 29, 2017

PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. – “They said I’d be paralyzed for the rest of my life,” smiles Edward Gizara as he pulls his driver back and launches a shot into a spring sky. Gizara is a medical miracle. He’s an inspiration and an unfiltered example of the best of us. But most of all he’s a survivor, not that any of those descriptions fit as he smothers another tee shot low and left.

He may be a genuine hero, but a bad swing is still a bad swing, and Gizara pivots, annoyed more than angry, as his ball races toward a row of trees down the left side of The Legends at Parris Island’s practice tee. The entire episode lasts just seconds but is a shining example of what self-belief, support and some golf can do even with the bleakest of outlooks.

In the summer of 1997 Gizara was living his dream. A career Marine who, after numerous deployments overseas, had returned to Marine Corps
Recruit Depot Parris Island to become a drill instructor. For a select few it’s a rite of passage to return to where it all began to train the next generation.
As he neared the end of his training and was sent to his first platoon, Gizara was volunteered to demonstrate the proper way to climb a rope on the combat endurance course. The ensuing 26-foot fall would fracture the L3 disc in his back and change his life forever.

Gizara was medevacked to the Veteran’s Administration hospital in Augusta, Ga., where he underwent nine fusion surgeries on his back and spent eight months recovering before he could even go home. When he could finally join his family he spent six months on his back with his wife having to roll him every two hours.

For a staff sergeant who spent his entire life leading men, Gizara’s physical limitations understandably became a psychological black hole. Two decades removed from those dark moments, he can now admit that he attempted suicide a “few times.” “Everything was no, no, no, and I just couldn’t take it anymore,” Gizara admits.

Initially, Gizara’s focus was on beating the odds and his doctor’s long-term diagnoses. He worked so hard to walk again doctors had to replace rods that had been inserted into his back multiple times because of wear and tear.

“You push yourself, so sometimes you break yourself,” he says. “I never thought I wouldn’t walk again; in the Marines you never give up and you never quit, you never stop fighting.” Overcoming paralysis, however, was just the beginning. Gizara was still a Marine and still needed a mission, which he found on the golf course of all places.

Although he hadn’t played golf since 1997, a friend told him about an Adaptive Golf Program at The Legends that’s designed to encourage those with disabilities and challenges to play. Cody Carter – an assistant pro at The Legends – altered Gizara’s swing to match his abilities and designed an action that wouldn’t cause any further injury. What Carter didn’t need to
do was find ways to motivate Gizara. That came naturally. “It makes you appreciate what you have, the determination people have. It’s definitely
inspiring for me,” Carter says. “Golf makes them feel normal, it’s a chance to do what everyone else is doing.”

For Gizara, as it is for so many who enter programs like Adaptive Golf, being on the course was much more than simply a chance to play a game – it was freedom. “It saved my life and my family understands that. That’s why I’m at the course so much,” Gizara says.

Gizara, who lives in Savannah, Ga., was so inspired by the program he launched a chapter in his hometown and meets with a group of about a dozen players twice a month. Just as he did when he was in the Marines, he now leads by example. As one would expect from a former drill instructor, Gizara’s bedside manner is, well, unique. During last year’s RBC Heritage Gizara set up an Adaptive Golf booth at Harbour Town Golf Links when a man in a motorized scooter drove by. 

“Can you play golf?” Gizara asked.

“Are you stupid or what?” was the man’s response.

Gizara explained what the Adaptive Golf Program offered and how they could teach the man to play with the help of new equipment like the ParaGolfer, which is an all-terrain wheelchair that raises the player into a standing position and allows a more conventional swing. “He started playing golf and now he really keeps everyone motivated,” Gizara says of the man. “I was in the wheelchair, I was in the scooter, it gave me purpose in my life which I was missing for a long time.”

The benefits of programs like Adaptive Golf go well beyond exceeding the physical limitations of a particular injury. For those like Gizara who finds themselves lacking a purpose and passion it’s a way to reengage with life.
Steve Giammona is a physical therapist at Beaufort (S.C.) Memorial Hospital who initially began the Adaptive Golf Program at Parris Island as a way to extend his patient’s rehabilitation, but he quickly realized it was also a way for patients to re-socialize.

“Part of what all this boils down to is it creates a social network and it gives them folks they can speak to who have been through similar situations and they can speak with them about how to cope with the world,” Giammona says. “So many ways I think golf mimics life and these folks have been faced with some of the biggest adversities. As they say on Parris Island, they [Marines] overcome and adapt.”

They also say you’re always a Marine, and Gizara is certainly an example of that. Golf saved his life and gave him a purpose, which in many ways can be as debilitating as losing the use of your legs or a missing limb.

Back on the range at The Legends, Gizara spins back toward the practice tee, he twists and bends to re-tee his golf ball before settling back in with his driver.
He pauses, looks up with a glare straight out of the drill instructor’s handbook and offers one final thought, “It’s not about your inability, it’s about your ability.”

Golf Academy of America Announces Partnership with Tee It Up for the Troops

Golf Academy of America announced today that it will be partnering with national nonprofit Tee It Up for the Troops. As part of this agreement, Golf Academy of America will sponsor and support a series of fundraising golf events hosted this autumn and winter.

All tournaments will raise money for veteran service organizations, both nationally and in the local community in which they take place. While some of the organizations are household names, others are smaller and more niche in size and scope.

As a sponsor of these golf events, two to four Golf Academy of America student volunteers and one or two instructors will attend and help run the tournaments. Golf Academy of America will also send teams of four students to compete in each tournament.

In addition, the Golf Academy of America volunteers will bring a Trackman device with them, allowing players to measure every aspect of their swing and analyzing the trajectory of the ball, providing them with immediate feedback.

The upcoming tournaments are scheduled on November 10 in Dallas and on December 7 in Orlando. Golf Academy of America will also sponsor Tee It Up for the Troops’ biggest event of the year, to take place at Reunion Resort in Orlando from January 10 – 14, 2018.

“We are very excited about working with Golf Academy of America, which has a much higher proportion of veteran students than the general population,” said Tee It Up for the Troops President & Executive Director Tim Wegscheid. “Golf Academy of America really aligns with our mission by helping veterans returning from combat to transition out of military life, giving them great career opportunities in the golf industry.”

“It’s our honor to partner with an organization that speaks to our values and helps veterans through the game of golf,” said Steve Newman, Golf Academy of America National Director of Operations. “It is our hope that through this sponsorship, we can support the great work of Tee It Up for the Troops and increase our connection with the veteran community.”

In keeping with the spirit of the event, each tournament will begin with a meaningful and impactful ceremony to remember all those who serve(d).

About Golf Academy of America

Golf Academy of America (formerly the San Diego Golf Academy) is the largest and longest-running two-year golf college in the world. Golf Academy of America’s 16-month program balances classroom studies, practical experience and comprehensive understanding of both the game and the business of golf. Campuses are located in San Diego, Phoenix, Orlando, Myrtle Beach and Dallas. For more information, call 800-342-7342 or visit http://www.GolfAcademy.edu. Golf Academy of America schools are owned and operated by the Education Corporation of America.

Donation to On Course Foundation Keeps on Giving

In January of 2017, on behalf of our generous sponsors and supporters, Tee It Up for the Troops donated $10,000 to the On Course Foundation. On Course Foundation is a veteran support organization that assists with the recovery of wounded, injured and ill Service personnel and veterans through golf. Their mission “….is to build confidence and self-belief in our Members [Service personnel and veterans] through golf skills and employment events, and set them on the path to meaningful employment opportunities in the golf industry.”

So why golf you might ask? The benefits of playing golf offers a key part in mental and physical recovery, improving both balance and limb coordination. Camaraderie, competitive spirit and concentration are important too, supporting the psychological recovery Service personnel and veterans, helping them find confidence within themselves.

Working together, we are using the game of golf as a vehicle for successful recovery, achieving a positive outcome not only on the golf course, but ultimately through work experience and eventually meaningful employment in the golf industry.

One of the beneficiaries of this donation was Ronnie Hurst, a medically discharged Army Veteran. He was having a hard time acclimating back into civilian life. Ronnie attended some of On Course Foundation’s events in Washington State and learned about various golf employment opportunities. On Course Foundation set him up with Chamber’s Bay golf course as a Player Assistant where Ronnie gained knowledge and experience in the golf industry and began his transition into civilian life.

Tee It Up for the Troops is happy to support Ronnie’s journey and we wish him all the best in his bright future! Thank you to the On Course Foundation for all you have done and continue to do for our military personnel!

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…”

IRAQ BOMB SURVIVOR FINDS NEW LIFE, NEW MISSION THROUGH ADAPTIVE SPORTS

Note: This article was printed in the August edition of DSUSA’s Challenge Magazine. DSUSA/Warfighter Sports one of the  top two national beneficiaries Tee It Up for the Troops donates to for services to our veterans and their families.

In the military community, ‘alive days’ are important anniversaries, commemorating the day a warfighter is severely wounded in battle. They memorialize a day that went from just another day on the job to the day when a new normal began. Retired Air Force Staff Sgt. Dan Acosta has celebrated 11 alive days since December 2005 when he was injured by a bomb while on patrol, losing his left arm and suffering significant damage to his legs.

Acosta joined the Air Force in 2002 knowing that he wanted to be an Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) Technician. This job is open to all four military branches, and to enlisted members and officers alike, but the training is so difficult that it has an 80 percent failure rate.

Acosta said he was drawn to the challenge of it. “It had the academic challenge, the physical challenge, the mental attitude challenge. It pushes you to the limit where you have to commit. You have to be all in – it’s 100 percent or not at all.”

After successfully completing EOD training, Acosta was sent to Baghdad, Iraq. His life there was similar to the 2010 Academy Award Best Picture winner “The Hurt Locker,” which follows an EOD technician dismantling explosives in Baghdad.

“Every single one of those situations in that movie I’ve seen or been in a lot worse,” Acosta said. “The scene where they’re called to a roadside IED – that was like four or five times a day for me and my team.”

On Dec. 7, 2005, Acosta was called to a ‘routine roadside bomb.’ While routine and roadside bomb don’t seem to fit into the same sentence, this is regular duty for EOD specialists. That day, Acosta and his team found and successfully disarmed two devices.

“I had a gut feeling that there was a third one there and I wanted to find it and disarm it,” he said. “I started to do a little courtesy sweep where I thought it might be and, sure enough, I found it.”

Acosta stepped on a pressure plate with 30 pounds of explosives attached. In addition to losing his arm, the bomb sent sand and dirt coursing into his skin at high pressure, causing severe damage to his legs.

“A lot of people look at a bomb go off and see the fire, the thermal effect, and consider that as the damaging part of a bomb,” he said. “It’s actually the overpressure that it creates. Just that amount of pressure against my body, the sand and dirt and debris that literally tore the meat off of my legs.”

Surviving his first surgery was another rehabilitation milestone for Acosta, whose survival expectancy rate was determined to be 10 percent according to the doctors who were operating on him. Acosta’s teammate, Staff Sgt. Joe Upton, who saved Acosta’s life providing combat first aid immediately after the explosion, was told that if he survived the first surgery his chances would be 50 percent survival. Acosta passed that milestone too, and six days later arrived at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio, Texas, for more surgeries and to start rehabilitation.

Acosta’s recovery moved at a remarkable speed, which he credits to his positive attitude from the moment he arrived in San Antonio and learned about the extent of his injuries.

“If I was in that hospital longer than I should be, that was going to be the thing that would kill me,” he said.

It was at BAMC that he relearned to walk, and shortly thereafter he signed up for to snowboard with Disabled Sports USA in Breckenridge, Colorado. “I actually spent my very first alive day in Breckenridge,” said Acosta. “That was the tipping point to want to live happy. From coming to re-learn how to walk and spending my first alive day snowboarding was just awesome.”

In addition to snowboarding, Acosta also participated in the Warfighter Sports golf program at BAMC. While it wasn’t a sport he had participated in prior to his injury, Acosta found his swing quickly, and completed the eight-week clinic series with local PGA professionals. For his participation, he received a set of custom-fitted PING clubs. Acosta used the game as his physical therapy for his legs, walking the course and playing about four times a week close to three years until he left BAMC and San Antonio.

He said the game helped with more than just physical rehabilitation. “Golf is one of those games where it’s a game of consistency, a little bit of strategy, and controlling your own anxieties. All of that helped at that time with balancing out my personal life.”

 

Today, Acosta lives in the Chicago area, where he works for iJet International as an analyst and risk consultant. The full-time job and Chicago weather

do not let him get out on the golf course as much as he would like, but he still uses his PING clubs on the links as many times a year as he can.

Acosta remains involved in adaptive sports as an ambassador for Warfighter Sports, as an advisory team member for Tee it Up for the Troops, a Warfighter Sports national partner, and as a board member for Adaptive Adventures, a chapter of Disabled Sports USA. He hopes to get even more involved in adaptive sports in the coming years to help others reach their own milestones.

“Adaptive Sports have done so much for me to want to continue life in a very positive way,” he said. “Being the EOD guy, I love helping people and love saving lives. If I can continue that in another way, I want to do so and I think it’s through adaptive sports.”