A Reminder Of The Strength Of Our Nation
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.