A young man came up to me, he looked like he'd been on a golf course before. He had the look of a ringer. He asked, "Are we teeing off at oh-1300?" I had to stop for a moment. My mind was on the police helicopter with our video guy, waiting for the 100-foot flag to open. The flag had to open just before the parachutes landed and we needed 90 volunteers to hold the flag. The Elite Frog parachute team had to land, change and we had to get out to the course by 1 p.m. I had to stop for a moment and think about his question. No one had ever asked that specific question before. I replied, "Hey, don't confuse me. We call it 1 o'clock out here." I knew at that moment the SEALs had infiltrated our perimeter. The young man was one of 12 Navy SEALs and Marine Recon that came down from San Diego to play golf with us. America's best taking some R&R.
We accomplished a lot with this tournament. I think we got to know each other a bit better. There were more people involved this time. As a result, we came away with a very good feeling, seeing how people responded to our guys fighting this war. Also, I think they enjoyed it and were uplifted by the support they received from the general public.
In the course of organizing this year's tournament, we needed more services than we had last year. A young lady, Krysten Jones, arranged for us to borrow a historic flag for the day. It was a 100-foot flag that was unveiled for the first time when the 52 hostages held by Iran were released in 1980.
Naturally, we needed 90 plus guys to hold it and we needed a helicopter to fly overhead and take some pictures - step in the Pasadena Police Department and Lt. Bob Mulhall who was in charge of the department's heliport. We asked Lt. Mulhall if we could land a helicopter on the course or if by chance the police themselves would help us. He indicated he would run it by the chief and get back to us. Within a few days he got back to us with a yes and not only would they fly over the flag but they would bring Bruce Jones, the official Pasadena Police photographer, to take the pictures. Not knowing when to stop, we asked him if it would be possible for one of our guys to go up with them to shoot a video. He took up two of our volunteers, Adrian Marinovich and Brian Lambert . That's the kind of support we are constantly amazed by.
Kim Carpenter, Chairperson of this year's event, organized a silent auction that rivaled Wal-Mart, and then the big guns came out. Hugh Hewitt, the nationally syndicated radio talk show host, joined us for dinner and eloquently spoke about our special operations people. He spoke of their duty and service to our country and also wrote an excellent piece on his Web page the following day about the event. Also, Tarzana Joe, poetry correspondent and poet laureate of the Hugh Hewitt Show, came and played. At the dinner ceremony he read two beautiful poems, "A Soldier's Wife" and "Her Husband." There were three young ladies in the audience that lost their husbands in Afghanistan and it was quite moving. It truly felt for a brief moment like one big family... a very special moment.
Then enters Command Sergeant Major Steven Greer, US Army Ret. In the process of promoting this tournament we had to send letters, make flyers and let people know what it was about and who was coming. There are no short names here except for Hugh Hewitt. Imagine every time we want to say something, we have to say "2nd Annual United Warrior Survivor Foundation Golf Tournament." In an attempt to shorten a flyer we thought maybe we could drop the word Command and just say Sergeant Major Steven Greer. A lot of us doing the grunt work were never in the military nor understand some of the ranks and their meanings. After talking to Nick Rocha, President of United Warrior Survivor Foundation, here's what I've learned about Command Master Sergeant. This is strictly my opinion as best I understand it. The sergeants keep the troops alive. The Sergeant Major keeps the sergeants, lieutenants and captains alive and the Command Sergeant Major is at the top and above all Sergeant Majors. Steven Greer at 33 was the youngest Command Sergeant Major of the Army.
He gave a very sobering and emotional talk that focused on two areas. First, the need to understand the enemy we are fighting. As time passes, we sometimes get back to business as usual and we forget 9/11. We forget that we were fortunate that only 3,000 died that day; that we were able to get the other 40,000 other people in the towers out in time; that one plane was brought down by the passengers or it could have hit the Capitol with Congress in session. A large number of Senators and Representatives could have been killed. They meant to strike a death blow to America. They meant to kill as many as they could using whatever they could. That point was driven home by the barbaric execution of Nicholas Berg, beheaded on camera for the entire world to see. The inescapable truth is that there is no alternative other than to destroy such an enemy, wherever he is found. And if we don't, he'll destroy us.
The other part was directed to three young women that joined us whose husbands had been killed while fighting in Afghanistan. Steven could hardly hold back the tears as he spoke directly to them about a subject that was obvious to all the Special Forces in the room and barely understood by us civilians. That the life they chose - to serve their country - oftentimes means we lose the people we love the most. How special they were. We just hear about that in the news, but when you see and hear the people affected firsthand, it's another thing entirely. You could hear a pin drop as Steven continued his address to the women. They came from different parts of the country to spend the day with us; young, vibrant, full of life and gracious in a situation that could have very been uncomfortable for them. And, I might add, surrounded and protected by a platoon of SEALs and Marines. They are and were a family looking out for their fallen brother's lady just like their little sisters. It was a real pleasure having them there and they too enjoyed the day. It was also good for them to see that we know of their sacrifice, and are loved as much as the husbands they lost while fighting for all our freedoms.
As for us at 9-11helpameica, we continue to be surprised, not because of what we have accomplished but because of the love and support that we are finding out is there for our guys in uniform and the spouses that survive them. We have gotten to know some of these SEALs and Marines on a personal level, their dedication, their commitment to the country and themselves; and in some ways they are just like the rest of us ...terrible golfers, but a sense of humor about it. However unlike us, when they go to work... it's deadly serious. It's been a real privilege to be associated with people like Nick Rocha, Barbra Coleman and Eric Knirk of the United Warrior Survivor Foundation and all those SEALs and Marines that came to play. Last but not least, the three remarkable women that came to have fun too. It's not at every golf tournament that the National Anthem is played in front of a 100-foot flag and the last group of golfers to check in parachutes onto the course.
Have we advanced the ball? We think so. Have we helped in building a bridge between the Military and the civilians, at least a little? We think so. Are more people getting involved? We think so. Back in October of 2001, we started with the idea of showing that a few people can make a difference. Are we on the right track? We definitely think so. To all those that help made this event possible and successful a BIG THANKS!