Golf for a good cause

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Golf for a good cause

National Wounded Warrior Project veterans take to fairways at Dataw Island
Published Tuesday, November 13, 2012   |  513 Words  |  

It was the flags that first got to Sgt. Shawn Whitmore.

When Whitmore, a member of the 135th Quartermasters Company of the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division based out of Ft. Stewart, Ga., made his way from Dataw Island's gate to the clubhouse, he was stunned by the parade of American flags that lined the drive, more than 1,000 of them.

So stunned, he called his father, a Vietnam veteran, to tell him.

"He said, 'You're going to make me cry first thing in the morning?' " Whitmore said.

Whitmore was one of 38 Wounded Warriors, joined by other active duty military members, who converged on Dataw Island to take part in the first National Wounded Warrior Project Golf Outing.

The event is the brainchild of Dataw resident Glenn Blackburn, himself a retired U.S. Army colonel, Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient.

Blackburn has long been a part of a tournament involving Dataw residents that has raised more than $75,000 for the Wounded Warriors. At a tournament in Jacksonville, Fla., in which he and wife Susan were playing, Blackburn pitched the idea of opening up Dataw to the Warriors themselves for an event.

The Wounded Warriors Project agreed and Blackburn's idea came to fruition. Blackburn said the residents of Dataw Island couldn't have been more supportive.

"We opened out hearts, some anonymous people opened up the money and they're embarking on their journey and they'll go from there," Blackburn said. "The residents treated them like they were in the Masters. We just embraced the whole thing."

After an opening ceremony that included the raising of the flag, the singing of the national anthem and several guest speakers -- Rep. Tim Scott was present -- the Warriors teed off.

The residents were present on all the greens, cheering on the golfers, raking the sand traps and providing homemade snacks and sweets. After the round, the veterans were treated to a cookout and awards.

Whitmore said golf was peaceful and was mentally relaxing for the Warriors.

"The white ball doesn't care what your limitations are," Whitmore said. "... All it wants you to do is hit it down the fairway".

He said the veterans play events like this for the camaraderie, and the opportunity to meet others like themselves. He also left no doubt about how successful the event was.

"We all know why we're here. But just to be received the way we were, I'd come back here," Whitmore said. "I'm going to be talking about this for months. I'm going to recommend this to every Wounded Warrior I go see in the hospital."

Nothing is set in stone, but Blackburn said that they envision the event continuing at Dataw Island.

"There couldn't have been a better day to recognize their sacrifice," Blackburn said. "We are part of their life mission, the recovery of the Wounded Warriors, who have given so much."