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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

#651 Army Strong.

Thanks, Vern P. This story says it all.

I've got to salute Tiger as well. He's not like anyone before him.

For those of you who are non-golfers, David Feherty is an irreverent TV Golf Analyst. An Irishman and former touring professional, he has a whimsical and often sarcastic view of the world and of professional Golf. This article is particularly good. I don't know where we get these kids, but bless them, and thank God they are on our side. Enjoy.

The Troops First Foundation gives America's injured vets a chance to reclaim their dignity
By David Feherty
Contributing Writer, GOLF Magazine
Published: August 26, 2009

The final round of Tiger's AT&T National at Congressional Country Club in July was particularly satisfying for me to witness because I followed the host toward his one shot victory over Hunter Mahan, who had earlier posted an incredible 62. Hunter has supported my Troops First Foundation events since the beginning, and like Tiger, his dad served in the military.

Earlier that week, Hunter, Rod Pampling, Jason Gore, Pat Perez, Kelly Tilghman and Tom Watson played with thirty or so seriously injured servicemen and women (most of them amputees) in my 2nd Annual Improvised Explosive Day of Golf at the Chevy Chase Club. This year I had another amazing group of warriors, from Rob Brown - a below-the-knee amputee who may represent the U.S. in both the regular Olympics in kayak and Para-Olympics in track and field - to 22-year-old PFC Brendan Marrocco of the 25th Infantry, who on Easter Sunday in Tikrit was robbed of all four limbs plus his left eye.

It takes a while to figure out how to react to the severely injured members of our armed forces, but after almost three years of being around them, I think I have it figured out. This year's IED of Golf was the firs time I'd met Brendan, with whom it is impossible to shake hands, play footsie, chest bump or, for that matter, pull his finger. A stump-to-knuckles thing had to suffice, and after that I embarked on what is now my normal procedure for getting to know a new member of my F-troop, who was being driven around in a cart by his brother Mike. It went something like this:

Me: "You know, you're not as tall as I thought you'd be."

Brendan: "I used to be taller."

"Yes, I can imagine. So, what would you like to do today?"

"I'd like to kick your butt."

"Well, that seems unlikely. Obviously you can't walk, but you look like you'd bounce pretty well. Are you going to be okay in that cart without a seat belt? "Yeah, I can hold on with my butt cheeks."
"Excellent! Well, clench on, brother - I'll see you out there."

Later that morning)

Me: "Hey, Stumpy, how's it going?"

Brendan: "I like this - is there any chance I can go watch Tiger with you this week?"
"I'll get you inside the ropes if I have to wear you like a back pack."
"Man, that's cold." "Hey, get used to it, kid - you're an F-trooper now."

These exchanges usually horrify first-time witnesses, but after a few moments, everyone gets it. Brendan has lost his limbs, not his mind, but more important for a man who has been trained to be one of the best soldiers on the planet, he has lost his dignity. By his reactions to my seemingly callous assaults on what is left of him, Brendan regains a little of that dignity each time.

Brendan, like the rest of my men and women, is more courageous, more inspiring, more complete, and funnier than any able-bodied person I know. His intelligence and his sense of humor are the only weapons he has left to defend himself, and he will use them in a manner that leaves those of us who are lucky enough to have him and others like him defending our freedom utterly awestruck and humbled.

Tiger had a one-shot lead after the 17th hole, and as he stood waiting for Anthony Kim to putt out, I put my hand on his shoulder and told him that Brendan, who had followed him all day in a cart inside the ropes, was now in his wheelchair where Tiger would turn the corner to go to the 18th tee. Tiger smiled at me and nodded.

Before heading to the last tee, Tiger hunkered down and knucklestumped one of his heroes, PFC Brendan Marrocco. Brendan, who before that day had been ashamed and frightened to go out in public, was wheeled by his father, Alex, and his brother Mike down the center of the 18th fairway to an overwhelming, roaring, standing ovation. He lifted what is left of one of his arms in a salute, and this announcer wept like Gary McCord at a Barry Manilow concert as Tiger looked on in the background, smiling.

It's hard to know which boy the old Green Beret Earl Woods would have been prouder of at that moment, but I do know this: Because of Tiger Woods, Hunter Mahan and the Troops First Foundation, PFC Brendan Marrocco is no longer ashamed to go out in public. And by this winter, he will be hunting birds with us and pulling his own damn trigger, or I'll make the little swine drop and give me twenty. Only a fool would bet against him being able to do both. Like they say, there's strong, and then there's Army Strong.



Sandee said...

Awesome. I didn't know this, but I don't follow any kind of sports either. Oh wait, we don't even have television. Sorry I missed this one.

Have a terrific day. :)

Peter said...

I missed this post Jack, just found it in a re-read GREAT STUFF.