My father served in the Army as a NCO for 28 years, and fought in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam wars. He suffered from what we now know as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As PTSD began to affect all areas of his life, he looked for refuge at the bottom of a bottle to deal with the trauma of combat. My father died way too young from what I call a slow suicide- he drank and smoked himself to death. He loved golf, and if there had been a program to help incorporate this therapeutic sport into his journey towards healing, l think his life story would have had a dramatically different outcome.
In 2010, I found myself sitting on a plane next to an army sergeant on leave from Afghanistan. As I listened to him talk about two of his soldiers who lost their lives and two who had lost legs in a recent IED explosive, I felt that I needed to do something for those two injured soldiers. I asked for their families’ names and had some of my friends visit one soldier, who was at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, and I called the mother of the other soldier who was at Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio. I was not sure why I was calling, but I wanted to let her know that someone cared. I told her about meeting her son’s first sergeant on a flight to Fort Bragg and asked what I could do for her son. She said that her son was going to be okay physically, because the army was going to fit him with a prosthetic, but that mentally he was never going to be the same.
I knew in that moment that it was my mission to create a program where combat wounded veterans would be able to heal physically and mentally surrounded by other veterans who understood what they were going through. By November 2010, Fairways for Warriors was launched and we held our first golf clinic for combat wounded veterans in January 2011. I created Fairways for Warriors so no soldier would have to suffer alone as my father did.
- Tom Underdown, Founder and President