By Megan Phillips
Photos by Diana Swanson
United States military veterans, who have been seriously injured in combat since September 11th 2001, gathered in Irving, Texas in late September to participate in the Warrior Open Golf Tournament hosted by former President George W. Bush. This was the third year of the annual tournament that is held to highlight the sacrifices and resiliency of veterans who have been wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The tournament kicked off with a practice round that was attended by professional golfers including Lee Trevino and Ryan Palmer. The following two days showcased a 36-hole competition featuring veterans who have overcome devastating combat injuries like the loss of a limb, and others who are dealing with less-visible wounds such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These veterans have found that learning to play golf helped give them focus and positive challenges to conquer while recovering from their injuries. They also shared the camaraderie and fellowship of other veterans who have had similar experiences.
Wearing matching white caps and blue polo shirts emblazoned with the tournament logo, men who have faced enormous challenges since being wounded enjoyed competing as they mingled with their former Commander-in-Chief and completed two days of golf. They supported each other as they played for a trophy that few could have imagined earning in the difficult days, weeks and months after suffering their injuries. More than a few expressed some trepidation about teeing off in front of their famous host, who was always ready with good-natured teasing and encouragement. Army Sergeant Timothy Gaestel made the first hole-in-one of his life during the first day of the competition. “They’re willing to overcome serious injuries which is an inspiration not only to me, but should be an inspiration to everybody,” President Bush said.
The purpose of the tournament was also to highlight various organizations that support veterans and their families. Representatives from The Folds of Honor Foundation, which grants scholarships to children and spouses of disabled veterans, and The Fisher House, which provides temporary housing adjacent to military hospitals for families of the wounded, were among the organizations represented.
In the end, the two-time champion of the tournament, Army Corporal Chad Pfeiffer pulled out another victory; he has now won each year since the Warrior Open’s inception in 2011. All the more impressive, he did it in spite of losing his right leg below the knee, competing with the help of his prosthetic leg.
Veterans Day is November 11th. To find out how you can get involved in improving the lives of America’s veterans through national volunteer organizations, or to learn more about the Warrior Open Golf Tournament including video highlights and interviews with the warriors, you can visit the website: