Hosting heroes: Vail Veterans Program welcomes wounded military vets for 5-day golf outing
For wounded U.S. military veterans — and their families — tours of duty last a lifetime. Years outside of the military are spent adjusting to society, building confidence and getting used to a new normal after catastrophic injuries.
The Vail Veterans Program uses the freedom of the Rocky Mountains along with rehabilitative sports and activities to help wounded veterans from across the country enjoy much-needed time away, free of charge for them and their families.
During the week of Aug. 20, about 20 veterans converged on the valley for a five-day golf outing, along with other activities such as massages and bowling at local businesses.
“Coming from the city of Philadelphia and getting out here, just looking around and breathing good air feels great,” said Kevin McCloskey, “and the courses are beautiful and everyone out here is incredible. Vail Veterans is probably one of the best nonprofits out there.”
McCloskey is in town for the second year in a row with Vail Veterans Program, and in addition to catching up with friends he’s also tuning his golf game for a Ryder’s Cup-style tournament in New York in September — The Simpson Cup, putting 13 injured American veterans against 13 injured British veterans.
McCloskey was injured in 2008 when the Humvee he and three other U.S. Army soldiers were riding in hit a land mine in Afghanistan. Blind in one eye with prosthetics on both legs and other injuries, McCloskey has been drawn to golf, a sport his father also enjoyed.
His time playing at elevation, where balls fly farther, should help him prepare for the Maidstone Club at The Simpson Cup in New York, known for longer rolls.
“It’s kind of teaching you to play more of a strategic round and more target golf than just wailing at the ball. It’s perfect out here,” he said.
“Vail Veterans is incredible and it’s an honor to be a part of it. Everybody is so inviting,” he added.
On Tuesday, Aug. 21, the group was at Eagle-Vail Golf Club.
“It’s great to have them back in Eagle-Vail,” said James Davidson, of Eagle-Vail Golf Club. “We’re always here to host them.”
‘It was a blessing’
Michael Beuoy was excited to get a last-minute invitation to the Vail Veterans Porgram’s recent outing. From San Diego, this is his third year participating.
“There didn’t use to be that many programs,” Beuoy said, referring to the limited options of either the hospital or VA system. “When these programs started arising it was a blessing. Everything that I’ve found about [Vail Veterans Program] is they only really do everything here. All of what we are experiencing is 100 percent from the local people right around here.”
Beuoy suffered a spinal cord injury while in the military, losing feeling in his right leg. Things like running and biking were proving to be difficult, so he has gravitated toward golf.
“I had a tendency of falling over. And I figured if I have a tendency of falling over, then I want to fall over on the golf course on the soft grass,” he said with a laugh. “I just try to play as much as I can.”
‘Camaraderie of all the guys’
Dillon Behr joined the Army in 2002 and spent eight years in as an Army Special Forces green beret. While in Afghanistan, he was shot through his pelvis and hip, followed by a recovery process that linked him up with Vail Veterans Program.
“It’s amazing. Living in the city of D.C. it’s a little crazy, so just to be out here in the open and in the mountains is great,” he said. “The camaraderie of all the guys is just something you need to do every once in a while, especially after you’ve been out of the military for a while.”
Behr has been to Vail before to participate in the Vail Veterans Program’s winter ski outings, but this is his first time joining the golf outing. His wife is pregnant with a baby girl, coming in February.
“I’m trying to get as much golf in as I can before that,” he said.