A Re­minder Of The Strength Of Our Na­tion

The Washington Times Daily - - Life -

COL Miguel Howe, USA, Ret.

For more than twelve years of war, the in­domitable strength of char­ac­ter, mind, body and spirit of the men and women of our Armed Forces has em­bod­ied the strength of our Na­tion. As our mil­i­tary ser­vice­men and women come home, the strength of our Na­tion will also re­side in the char­ac­ter of the cit­i­zens and com­mu­ni­ties that ef­fec­tively honor sup­port and em­power this gen­er­a­tion of vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies to con­tinue to serve as na­tional as­sets in new and mean­ing­ful ways.

The strength of our na­tion was ev­i­dent dur­ing the 3rd An­nual Bush Center War­rior Open, a golf tour­na­ment for mem­bers of the U.S. mil­i­tary who were se­verely wounded in the global war on ter­ror. For three days this highly com­pet­i­tive and in­spir­ing event hon­ored our war­riors and their fam­i­lies, but also served to unite the non-prof­its, busi­nesses and com­mu­ni­ties who sup­port them. Four­teen PGA Tour Pro­fes­sion­als, from the leg­endary Lee Trevino, to cham­pi­ons like Justin Leonard and David Gra­ham, hon­ored our War­riors and their fam­i­lies by play­ing in the Pro-Am prac­tice round. The Pros, like the rest the gallery were moved by the phys­i­cal, men­tal and emo­tional strength of th­ese 24 War­riors who, de­spite se­vere in­jury, trauma and loss com­peted on the golf course as elite ath­letes. Pres­i­dent Bush de­scribed the event as “a celebration of pa­tri­o­tism, courage, and sac­ri­fice,” and noted that the par­tic­i­pants “serve as a tes­ti­mony to all peo­ple who have been dealt a tough hand…but have the re­solve and the de­sire to live life to the fullest.”

Th­ese War­riors have lived the War­rior Ethos - “I will al­ways place the mis­sion first, I will never ac­cept de­feat, I will never quit, I will never leave a fallen com­rade,” They lived it on the bat­tle­field, and in re­cov­ery, and did so again on the golf course. Staff Sergeant Bobby Dove did not quit, gut­ting out ten holes of golf on a bro­ken pros­thetic leg held to­gether by the spare pros­thetic arm parts and elec­tri­cal tape of his com­peti­tor and fel­low War­rior who would not leave him be­hind, Ma­jor Ken Dwyer. Sergeant Tim Lang did not leave a fallen com­rade, stay­ing late with Lieu­tenant Brian Donarski on the prac­tice green af­ter a tough first day, coach­ing him to an over­all third place fin­ish. When some­one asked Lang, why would you help some­one you are com­pet­ing with, not only for the over­all win, but an au­to­matic re­qual­i­fy­ing berth? Tim was per­plexed, “Why wouldn’t I help him? He is my brother and fel­low war­rior.”

Those in at­ten­dance wit­nessed fierce com­pe­ti­tion, and the ca­ma­raderie, re­spect, friend­ship and com­mon bond that comes with a shared mis­sion, sac­ri­fice and loss. Sergeant Saul Martinez said, “Be­ing around my wounded brothers has been huge.” First Sergeant Ja­son Stamer and Staff Sergeant An­drew Mont­gomery were paired to­gether on the fi­nal day of the tour­na­ment just two years af­ter they fought to­gether in the same com­pany in Afghanistan and were se­ri­ously wounded only 30 days apart.

Th­ese war­riors, who em­body the strength of the Na­tion, stand ready to con­tinue to serve in a new way, and with a re­newed pur­pose. Those who have borne the sac­ri­fice and loss that comes with en­sur­ing our free­dom and se­cu­rity are fur­ther strength­ened by the sup­port of their fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties. “We are in awe of what the com­mu­ni­ties and the or­ga­ni­za­tions do to sup­port us,” said Mas­ter Sergeant Sean Ben­nett. Those com­mu­ni­ties and or­ga­ni­za­tions in­clude non-prof­its, busi­nesses, cor­po­ra­tions, foun­da­tions, and in­di­vid­u­als who play a prom­i­nent role in em­pow­er­ing all of our post9/ 11 vet­er­ans and mil­i­tary fam­i­lies. This year’s War­rior Open rec­og­nized eight great Mil­i­tary Ser­vice Or­ga­ni­za­tions that have been par­tic­u­larly ef­fec­tive in fa­cil­i­tat­ing ser­vice mem­bers in the ar­eas of jobs, well­ness, ed­u­ca­tion, fam­ily and hous­ing so that they can con­tinue to serve in a mean­ing­ful way.

The War­rior Open drew tremen­dous com­mu­nity sup­port for the par­tic­i­pants not only through this tour­na­ment, but be­yond the golf course. I saw a se­nior busi­ness leader of­fer a job to one of the War­riors. A non­profit of­fered a mort­gage-free home to another. The work of the Bush Center ex­tends be­yond the War­rior Open in that re­gard – to bring com­mu­ni­ties, non-prof­its, busi­nesses and in­di­vid­ual cit­i­zens to­gether to ef­fec­tively sup­port and em­power the na­tional re­source of our vet­er­ans and mil­i­tary fam­i­lies.

Sergeant Tim Lang said, “That is what the Pres­i­dent has done with the Bush Center and the War­rior Open… to bring the com­mu­nity on board, to bring the vet­er­ans from a low point, back to the top of the moun­tain.” But it’s Lang who reminds us all that our sup­port for Amer­ica’s brave war­riors is ul­ti­mately what de­fines our Na­tion’s strength.

Colonel Miguel Howe, USA, Ret. is the di­rec­tor of the Mil­i­tary Ser­vice Ini­tia­tive at the Ge­orge W. Bush In­sti­tute in Dal­las, TX. The Mil­i­tary Ser­vice Ini­tia­tive works to unite and em­power the work of non-prof­its, busi­nesses, uni­ver­si­ties, in­di­vid­ual cit­i­zens and com­mu­ni­ties to ef­fec­tively sup­port all post-9/ 11 vet­er­ans in the ar­eas of jobs, well­ness, ed­u­ca­tion, hous­ing, fam­ily and women’s vet­eran is­sues, so that they can con­tinue to serve as na­tional as­sets af­ter they leave mil­i­tary ser­vice.

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