IRVING (CBS 11 NEWS) – On a sun swept day at the Las Colinas Country Club in Irving– the ravages of war, can for the moment, be forgotten. After all, this is all about golf.
“It’s good to play with people who, for the most part, are going through the same thing,” says Army Staff Sergeant Jason Searles, from Colorado Springs, Colo. “It’s a great time, an outstanding time.”
Staff Sgt. Searles lost his leg in Afghanistan in August of last year. He is one of 22 wounded veterans assembled for the invitation only George W. Bush Presidential Center’s Warrior Open. In kicking off the two day tournament, the former President called the event a “celebration of patriotism, courage and sacrifice.”
“I’m looking forward to presenting the trophy to the best golfer, ” said Mr. Bush. “If we had to give a trophy to the best person, everybody’s a winner here.”
Whether soldier, seaman, airman or marine – each of the field of 22 in some way, wears the wounds of America’s fight for freedom. The Warrior Open recognizes the sacrifice of veterans severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
First Lieutenant Brian “Ski” Donarski, US Army (Ret.) says he is “very blessed to be here”, after breaking his neck, back and having his shoulders ripped open. He’s making his second appearance at the Warrior Open after tying for 3rd place, last year. He says the support has been “wonderful.” “Being here in Texas, where everything is bigger, what a place to celebrate and feel that love from the American people,” says Lt. Donarski.
US Air Force Staff sergeant Nick Bradley, from Haslet, was on his third tour of duty– when a tank mine blew up his vehicle. Throughout a lengthy recovery, he says his family, and golf kept him going.
“I have 38 screws in my right arm, 11 in my right hand. I had to have facial reconstruction, every bone in my face was crushed. I have 6 screws in my face. I have a 6″ screw through my right hip, my right pelvic bone was fractured, my knee was crushed, my right foot was crushed and now, it’s partially paralyzed. But, I’m still kicking.”
In spite of the sometimes obvious physical challenges, the only handicaps you’ll hear mentioned here, are golf scores. They’re having too much fun.
“What’d you do this work week?” asks a laughing Sgt. Searles as he imagines an upcoming conversation with a friend. “Ah, I played golf with George Bush, rubbed elbows, ate some chicken with Jay Leno… good times!”
Sources say the comedian made an appearance at a dinner for the veterans hosted at the Bush’s Preston Hollow home on Sunday.
“Good times,” reiterates Sgt. Searles with laughter.
Good times, indeed, and gratitude for a job very well done.
Tournament play resumes on Tuesday.
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