Wounded warriors golf in Campobello

09/25/2012 1:21 AM

09/25/2012 1:33 AM

Ron Hoffman considers his a “fortunate disability.”

He’s physically intact. He does not suffer from a traumatic brain injury.

Hoffman, a Greenville resident, medically retired in 2005 from the Marine Corps after 24 years of service. He was taken by medevac to Germany from Iraq with a tumor in his chest and diagnosed with lymphoma.

Hoffman has been in remission since 2003.

“Life is an adventure and every day is a gift,” he said.

Hoffman is in the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment. He said wounded Marines not in active service or retirees like him are within the Wounded Warrior Regiment, which is separate from Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), an organization that serves military service members who are wounded, injured or suffering illnesses due to service, as well as their families. As of Aug. 1, there are about 21,000 WWP alumni, according to the organization’s website.

Marines Corps and Army service members participated Monday in a golf tournament at Links O’Tryon in Campobello sponsored by the Palmetto House Republican Women. Beverly Owensby, a group member, said about 60 golfers participated, including 12 wounded warriors the group invited to play in the tournament.

Three Army members traveled from Fort Jackson to play in the tournament, she said.

One was Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Aubrey.

Aubrey has served 21 years in the Army. He was wounded in 2003 and 2004 in Iraq. He also was injured in Afghanistan. Aubrey has been hit with shrapnel in both arms, received a traumatic brain injury from “one too many concussions,” both eardrums were perforated from a blast and he has balance issues.

“This is probably one of the best physical therapies I can do,” he said of golf.

Aubrey will retire from the Army on Nov. 27, but said he would serve another 20 years if they would let him.

His parents are both first-generation Americans.

“When we came here, you know, we had nothing. This country gave us everything. Why not pay it back? I take pride in our flag, and I take pride in what I’ve done,” Aubrey said. “I still get goose bumps whenever I hear ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ ” he said.

He served for the love of his country and plans to pursue a master’s in social work and help service members with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Aubrey joked that he wanted his team to beat one of the Marine Corps teams.

One Marine competitor was Nate Moore of Greenville.

“I play at the game, but usually the game wins,” Moore said.

He enjoys golfing, but the tournament was an opportunity to spend time with people from the community, including fellow Marines, which he said is always great.

Moore medically retired last month after nearly eight years of service. He deployed to Iraq in 2006 and Afghanistan in 2010. He said he had four concussions in a 20-hour period after two mortar attacks and two IED, or improvised explosive device, attacks.

Another group of Marines traded barbs, insults and ribbed one another. But no one took offense at the trash talk. Theirs is a brotherhood of sorts, a bond perhaps strengthened by the wounds, seen and unseen.

Hoffman said there are many wounded veterans here in the community.

More than 48,000 service members have been injured in recent military conflicts, while an estimated 400,000 service members have post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression and combat-related stress, and another 320,000 are estimated to have experienced traumatic brain injuries, according to statistics from the Wounded Warrior Project.

Hoffman said many people find it awkward to approach a wounded veteran.

“They don’t know what to say,” he said. ‘Thank you’ is well appreciated.”

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