This week, the AT&T National golf tournament will have some
specially invited guests, members of the U.S. Military. Tournament host
Tiger Woods has made 30,000 tickets available to the military and their
families. As VOA's David Byrd reports, the tickets are only part of
the tournament host's way of saying "thank you."
said when this tournament started in 2007 that he wanted part of it to
honor the men and women who serve in the Armed Forces. The world
number one golfer's late father Earl Woods was a Green Beret in
Vietnam. Tiger even gets his name from one of his father's military
As part of his way of thanking the military - and
honoring his father - Tiger's Foundation is committed to working with
the America Supports You program, a Department of Defense organization
which supports active duty military and their families.
AT&T National tournament, the flags of the service branches fly
above the first tee. That's also where Marine Corporal Angel Cuevas of
Los Angeles, California, served as one of the honorary starters.
"Welcome to the AT&T National. This is the 1:40 start time. First on the tee: from Tokyo, Japan, Shigeki Maruyama."
Cuevas serves with the Pentagon tour program. He says that Tiger Woods
making free passes available helps encourage those who serve in the
U.S. military. "I think it's a wonderful thing. It really is. It really
shows support towards the military. And that really shows that he's
open to the entire military family who are welcomed to this. And I
believe there are a couple of Wounded Warriors out here, also, which is
a great thing because they have like three or four deployments under
their belt. And for them to come out here and experience such and
environment is a wonderful thing," he said.
As Corporal Cuevas
mentioned, several members of the Wounded Warriors program are also
here. The program focuses on helping those with traumatic battle
injuries - including amputated limbs, brain injuries, burns, blast
injuries and bullet wounds.
Members of the group here this week
all wear bright red shirts with the organization's logo - a soldier
carrying a wounded comrade - stitched in white on the left side.
their hospitality tent, Jeff Hansen of Scio, Oregon - a
picture-postcard community of fewer than 700 people - stands with his
girlfriend. A tall, thin young man, Jeff's left leg is missing and has
been replaced with a high-tech prosthesis. His right leg still bears
red and purple scars from where he was wounded in Iraq by an improvised
explosive device or IED. He is pale, and soft spoken and reluctant to
talk much about his injury.
Hansen says that he didn't play
golf, but he was a fan. He is learning the game through the Salute
Military Golf Association which works with Walter Reed Army Medical
hospital. And he appreciates Tiger Woods making the tickets available.
is certainly generous of him. It gives us an opportunity to get out and
do something that we have never done before. Uh, actually I am learning
through the SMGA - Salute Military Golfer's Association," he said.
Wounded Warrior is Chris Burrell of Goldsboro, North
Carolina. He lost one of his legs to an EFP - an especially deadly
form of IED - just before Christmas of last year in Southern Baghdad.
He says being at the tournament is something special.
at this tournament most of us are really avid golfers. We usually golf
two or three times a week, or if we are not playing 18 holes we are at
the driving range. And you know we are all great friends here, just
enjoying the time being out of the hospital, just fellowship, just
enjoying the moment," he said.
Burrell, a cherub-faced man with
brilliant green eyes, has a baby daughter with his girlfriend back in
North Carolina. He plans to go back to his home base at Fort Bragg to
continue rehabilitation. Burrell says attending this tournament and
working with Wounded Warriors are part of his recovery. He adds that he
hopes this week helps people understand the long process combat
veterans go through to - in his words - "just feel like a normal