Wounded Troops Hit the Links for Warrior Open
Friday, September 21, 2012
USO Playing Key Logistics Role at Bush Golf Tournament
By Eric Brandner
John Faulkenberry hasn’t played as much golf as he’d like recently. But from the sound of his voice, that doesn’t seem to bother him too much.
“My wife is pregnant with our second baby coming in December, so she’s more than willing to pass the 17-month-old to me when I come home [from work],” the retired Army sergeant first class said with a laugh.
Faulkenberry will be one of the stars on the links this weekend, when he and 21 other wounded servicemen take the course for The Bush Center Warrior Open – hosted by former President George W. Bush – outside Dallas. The event kicks off Sunday with a practice round featuring the competitors and VIPs. The scores will count on Monday and Tuesday, with the 36-hole competition culminating in a trophy presentation for the winner on the 18th green of the Las Colinas Country Club in Irving, Texas.
The USO is playing a big role in this year’s tournament. The organization is responsible for inviting and checking in hundreds of attendees. Once on the tournament grounds, attendees can visit the USO-sponsored military village, where they’ll be served free breakfast and lunch during both days of the tournament. There will also be a USO Mobile – a USO center on wheels that provides everything from food to WiFi access – at the event.
“We are incredibly excited about the Warrior Open,” said USO Senior Vice President of Operations Alan Reyes, who’ll be playing with celebrities and wounded troops in Sunday’s practice round. “It’s an amazing opportunity to showcase the recovery of our wounded heroes as well as their sportsmanship and competitiveness even after enduring their wounds.”
Faulkenberry, 29, deployed three times during the current wars – twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan. He was shot through the thigh in 2007, an injury that marked the beginning of five years of rehabilitation and surgeries, including an above-the-knee amputation of his right leg in 2010.
Golf become part of his life again during his battle to save his right leg. Faulkenberry credits Jim Estes of the Olney Park Golf Club in Maryland for putting in time on the golf course with him and other injured troops, helping them both establish better balance and maneuverability also lowering their scores.
“Once I got wounded, I all of the sudden had the time to do it and the resources, so I took advantage of that,” he said. “I just kind of refueled what I had inside. I always enjoyed golf but now I was able to play it more often and it was more exciting.”
After years of rehabilitation in both Maryland and then Texas, Faulkenberry decided to pursue an amputation. Despite the intensely personal nature of giving up a limb, it was only after getting the blessing from the three medical professionals who’d worked so hard to help him save it – the doctor that made his brace, his limb-salvage doctor, and his physical therapist – that Faulkenberry made the move.
“For me it was extremely difficult coming to this decision. It was hard for me because my limb-salvage doctor at the same time was putting so much effort into getting my leg just right and trying to rebuild it, I felt like I was betraying [him],” he said. “There were zero regrets [after the surgery]. It was the easiest and least-painful surgery I’ve ever had.”
He had the surgery on a Friday, was discharged the following Monday, was off pain medication by that Wednesday and was playing golf on one leg by Thursday.
Faulkenberry – who was medically retired in March – now works as an orthotic prosthetic technician at the same Center for the Intrepid (CFI) where he was once a patient.
“I think it’s neat that I’m working at the CFI because I spent so much time and sweat there as a patient,” he said. “I have nothing but happy thoughts there. They taught me how to walk and they taught me how to get better. I am where I am today because of the Center for the Intrepid. I love that place.”
Faulkenberry finished third in last year’s tournament (23 over par). He’ll be chasing defending champion Chad Pfeifer, who carded a two-round score of 7 over par in the 2011 event.
Photo caption: John Faulkenberry walks the course during the 2011 Bush Center Warrior Open in Irving, Texas. (Photo credit: Layne Murdoch / The Bush Center)
Federal employees can help the USO fulfill its mission to support troops and their families through the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign. Please designate #11381.
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