124 ;e Costco Connection NOVEMBER 2013
AT FIRST GLANCE, the American Lake
Veterans Golf Course in Lakewood,
Washington, looks like any other—golfers
and carts buzzing around a great green
backdrop. But up close, the course is not so
ordinary. This course is specially designed
and operated for disabled veterans.
Scattered around the course, golfers—
many of them missing arms or legs, some
blind, others with invisible wounds such as
traumatic brain injuries—drive, chip and
putt. They get help from the Warrior
Transition Battalion, volunteers who teach
disabled veterans in a virtual golf training
To get new golfers started, a volunteer
crew refurbishes golf clubs and gives them
to wounded warriors. Veterans who can’t
stand learn to play on Paragolfers or
SoloRiders, mini golf carts that lift golfers
to a standing position so they can take their
shots. The course even modified its terrain
to support disabled veterans—sand traps
are shallow in order to accommodate the
“Our mission is to provide affordable,
enjoyable golf for veterans and their fami-
lies,” says volunteer manager, Vietnam
veteran and Costco member Bruce
McKenty. “The course is for any veteran,
but we specialize in helping mentally or
physically impaired veterans heal through
the power of golf.”
Veterans like Jeremy, 29, who lost his
right arm and right leg in Afghanistan,
find renewed life at the course. A year and
a half ago, his father brought him to the
course to learn to play golf. Jeremy trained
in the virtual facility until he felt comfort-
able going out on the course. Now he and
his father play three or four days a week.
Jeremy says that if it weren’t for golf, he’d be
driving his wife crazy. “Jeremy has blos-
somed since he’s been here,” says McKenty.
“Golfing has given him a different outlook
The independently funded facility is
currently a nine-hole course, but crews
plan to break ground on an additional
nine holes, designed by golf legend Jack
Nicklaus, next month.
“I was moved to see the amazing
efforts at American Lake Veterans Golf
Course where our wounded warriors learn
to play golf with the help of an incredible
army of volunteers,” Nicklaus said at a
recent golf clinic and fundraiser. “This is
done out of love.”—MBF
Golf “fore” disabled vets
ACCORDING TO THE Department of
Defense, about one in three women in the
military has been sexually assaulted.
Recently the Pentagon released extensive
guidelines on how to prevent and respond to
sexual assaults. “It’s great progress,” says
Army Colonel Janice Dombi, now retired from
the Army. “Our goal is to help women thrive
in the military, not just survive.”
To help address this, Dombi and Major
Lisa BelCastro began hosting meetings with
military women, dubbed Sisterhood Against
Sexual Assault (SASA).
SASA, which can be found on Facebook,
is a one-day workshop that helps young servicewomen identify potentially dangerous situations and establish a healthy balance
between work and personal relationships.
Rank is left at the door, letting the day progress into an open dialogue between senior
and junior servicewomen about personal
goals, self-confidence and what to do in the
event of an attack.
“The strongest preventive measure will
empower, educate and inspire women so
they can increase their resiliency and protect
themselves,” says Dombi.
After the session, mentor relationships
and monthly meetings are also arranged—a
key component to ensure junior troops know
a woman they can talk to candidly.
“It could be a different world for women
in the military,” Dombi says, “if each young
service member had a female in their chain
of command as a mentor.”
Dombi and BelCastro, her business part-
ner, recently attended the National Veterans
Small Business Conference, thanks to a grant
from the Bob Woodruff Foundation, and they
are upbeat about introducing SASA to more
military bases around the country.
“I know we can make a difference,” says
Sisterhood Against Sexual Assault
workshops help create an open dialogue throughout the ranks.
Top: A specially designed golf course,
along with modified golf carts and
other features, enables veterans of all
abilities to participate in the game.
Above: Jack Nicklaus, right, is donating his services to design an additional
nine holes on the course.
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