Tournament Photos Here
2010Tournament Photos Here
Than a Golf Tournament
We walked together out
to the parking lot. And all I could do was put my arm around
his shoulder, thank him again, and shake his hand warmly.
Wed finally achieved a dream of his that we started
over a year ago.He and I have since become brothers by circumstance.
Michael Ouellette was killed in Afghanistan in April of 2009,
a hero in particular to the Marines who served with him and
who escaped the ambush that cost Michael his life. I was so
inspired by his story that I went over to Manchester Airport
to quietly honor him as his casket arrived home on a sunny
spring afternoon. I also wrote an article about it. A month
later, I received a call from a gentleman who had seen my
piece and asked if I would help him put together a golf tournament
in honor of his son. He called it the NH Freedom Cup.
His name was Len Ouellette. His son was Cpl. Michael Ouellette,
USMC. How could I refuse?
Len worked tirelessly
over the year to build this dream of his. He put together
a dedicated team of people to help him. It started with a
handful of volunteers and employees at the VA Medical Center
in Manchester NH. People who understood the cause of veterans,
of those who were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, of their
families. It included a handful of Marine Corps veterans,
who long ago served their own time. People from veterans groups
pitched in to help, particularly from the American Legion
and the Blue Star Mothers. Others heard of the cause and fell
in more veterans, local business people, people who
had kids serving, people with computer, marketing, and sales
skills who just wanted to help this guy out. Because they
believed in The Cause.
And what was The Cause?
Simply to help veterans, those currently serving, and their
families to get through any crisis they might be experiencing
as a result of their service in the Middle East. And
to do so in honor of Michael Ouellette and those like him
who died for our Country and
will themselves never be able to take advantage of the services
their memories have helped create.
Volunteers being what
they are, we couldnt always help all the time, me especially.
Daily life just pulls us in many directions. So we chipped
in when we could. But Len kept at it fulltime. And last week,
at Candia Woods Golf Links, 124 golfers, dozens of sponsors,
and a proud core of volunteers convened for the first annual
Freedom Cup Golf Tournament. And it was a smashing success.
It wasnt just another golf tournament. It was a patriotic
event. Under a cloudless summer sky thanks you, Lord
the event opened with presentation of the colors by
a Marine Corps color guard, singing of the National Anthem
by 14-year old Elaine Weatherby, an invocation, and a few
words of thanks. Flags from every military branch were planted
along the cul de sac in front of the golf course. Participants
were greeted by the stoic Patriot Riders, all veteran motorcyclists
who will go to any event just to silently hold huge American
flags in honor of the Fallen. Two giant yellow ribbons were
wrapped around trees on the roadside, reminding people to
honor our veterans.
golfers were a mixture of typical patriotic Americans
veterans, business folks, cops, and firemen. Moms and dads.
Young and old. Good golfers, hackers and even some
like me who wouldnt touch a club for fear of hurting
or someone else. But we all believed in The Cause.
And thats what made for success. Every one of them signed
a poster of the tournament for Len the golfers, the
waitresses, the volunteers, the sponsors, the color guard.
A small momento of a huge event.
Oh, they golfed that day. And they enjoyed a great dinner,
raffles, a silent auction. They spent their money for The
Cause, as generous folks will do. At one point, they sporadically
burst into God Bless America as they sat down to eat. We had
a few moments where we were choked for words. Talking about
Michael was tough. Len appreciated that. Talking about PJ,
a young Marine who lost his life a few years ago was tough.
His dad was golfing that day. Thoughts of Phils son,
another young Marine who was medi-vacd out of Afghanista
just two days ago were still in my mind, as was the son of
our Wear Red on Friday friends whose son just
arrived in Afghanistan yesterday. They were all golfing. I
thought of my own son, who is just waiting his turn to go
and I smile every time I see my wife wearing her I may
not look tough, but I raised a US Marine shirt.
But it wasnt all Marine parents at this golf tournament.
Far from it. Everyone there knew or had someone serving in
the Army, National Guard, Air Force, Navy, or Coast Guard.
Kids at risk, who are serving because they want to. Thats
the America we believe in.
In the end, we raised a lot of money that day to help those
whose lives have been scarred by this War on Terror. And well
raise even more next year, God willing. And the year after.
I know Len wont stop. He owes that much to his son.
And we wont stop either. Because if America even begins
to forget why kids like that serve, then America is doomed.
And I dont think this country is that selfish, do you?
Joe Paradis is one of
Londonderrys most popular columnists and authors. Visit
his web site at www.joes2cents.com
today and order his latest autographed book, Its
Great to Be Alive!