American heroes flock to Goose Creek
On April 4, 2010, Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas Thom was in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan when he went to investigate a suspicious item. During his investigation an improvised explosive device, or IED, was detonated remotely.
As a result of the explosion, Thom lost both legs above the knees, as well as three fingers and sustained serious injuries to his arms.
A mere two years after his life-altering attack April 16, Thom was playing golf at Goose Creek, participating in Ripple Effect’s inaugural Wounded Warrior Golf Tournament.
Ripple Effect is described by Executive Director Earl Piner of Leesburg as an unofficial nonprofit organization founded five years ago. Their first acts of philanthropy were sending care packages to troops overseas with Operation Shoebox and working with struggling families during the winter holidays. But the golf tournament opened a new frontier for Ripple Effect.
“This was our first official event,” Piner said.
Piner and the organization, with the help of Leesburg businessman David Dussault, first had to find a course to meet their needs. Fortunately, Goose Creek Club was able to deliver.
“We wanted to make it interactive. I don’t know how many golf tournaments allow spectators to just walk around and borrow carts and ride out with no charge,” Piner said. “They were open to that and not too many courses really would do that so we’re definitely thankful for them.”
Dussault also added of Goose Creek, “They were one of the first courses that worked with us numbers-wise so that the most part [of funds] could go back to Ripple Effect and the wounded warriors.”
Piner and Dussault also sought sponsors and donors to provide the tournament with raffle prizes and awards for tournament performance.
The energy drink company, XS Energy, donated raffle prizes and hundreds of energy drinks for participants. Amway Global, a $10.9 billion company based out of Michigan, also donated prizes and local businesses helped provide food.
But Ripple Effect had another plan in mind – to distinguish this golf tournament.
“There’s a lot of wounded warrior tournaments that raise the funds but I’m not sure how many actual have them playing with us,” Piner said.
For that, Piner linked up with the Salute Military Golf Association. The SMGA provides golf lessons, equipment and playing opportunities for wounded veterans of the post 9/11 wars.
“They had a list of players, and it was a good fit for us,” Piner said.
The tournament was set up with groups of four competing for the lowest total score. Three and a half weeks before the tournament, with 24 foursomes of golfers, registration for the event sold out. Six states were represented and included golfers from as far away as Florida and Michigan.
Seven of those golfers participating were wounded warriors.
Joining Thom were fellow veterans Jonathan Albrecht, Chris Bowers, Lee Fakauho, Vincent Moore, Dewitt Osborne and Dan Pulsipher.
“Ripple Effect requested golfers, so we tried to fill as many spots as possible,” said retired Marine Cpl. Bowers, an SMGA member. Bowers lost his leg below the knee in Iraq in 2008.
“There were lots of good patriots, good people. They took a Monday off work to come hang out with us and raise money for the cause.”
Other veterans added that golf was a way to relax and forget about the horrors of war.
“Golf was instrumental in my recovery,” said retired sergeant Osborne, who was leading a convoy in Iraq in 2006 when his vehicle hit an IED. Osborne wrote an article for Golf Digest, where he credits golf with helping to save his life.
A foursome from Pennsylvania walked away with the top prize, scoring a cumulative 12-under par score. The winners, composed of Scott Walters, Matt Davis, Kyle Schwille and Scott Houseal earned passes to the Raspberry Falls Golf and Hunt Club and a football autographed by NFL stars, including Kurt Warner. A foursome from Ashburn, captained by Brad Dehaven, took second.
But, as Dussault noted during the awards ceremony, where a standing ovation reinforced his assertion, the real winners were the heroes that joined them for an afternoon on the course.
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