Over the past year I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with wounded soldiers, many of them Special Forces and most of them amputees. We first met at Feherty’s IED of Golf, an event in July during the week of Tiger’s event at Congressional. I was still feeling the effects of having been flattened by a truck in a bicycling accident, and a Green Beret named John Wayne Walding, who lost his right leg below the knee in one of the most horrific firefights of the Afghan war, asked me how I was feeling. I said I was doing great other than my left shoulder, which had been so badly separated that it would be a year before I could start rehab. “No it isn’t,” he replied. He bent down, pulled off his prosthetic, held it up and pointed at it, grinning like an idiot. “That’s f—ing separated.”
Less than four months earlier, John had tied what was left of his right calf and foot to his right thigh with his bootlace and scrambled down a cliff to a helicopter. The day after I met him, he walked around Congressional with me. It was only his second day with the prosthetic. Moron that I am, I suggested he perhaps ride in my cart part of the time. “It’s easier to be the Pope than it is to be a Green Beret,” said Keith, another Beret, and the most dangerous-looking human I’ve ever seen. “Try not to get in his way.”
When John fell on his ass over the ropes beside the seventh green I resisted the urge to help him up, as it might have been the last thing I ever did. Without a hint of embarrassment or a trace of self-pity, he hauled himself upright, grinned and said, “It might take me a while.”
Since then, I have held Feherty’s IED of Pheasant Hunting. Eight men at various stages of recovery from horrifying wounds made the trip to Dallas, where they were picked up by DFW town cars and taken to the Four Seasons at the TPC. We had an unbelievable dinner at Nick and Sam’s steakhouse, and the following morning, flew in two private jets to Winner, S.D., where Tom Walsh and his son took us to their Southfork Lodge — and the whole trip was donated. The driveway was lined with 250 American flags, and inside were about 25 vets from South Dakota. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, at least among the civilians. You have to remember we’re talking about Special Forces.
Men like Kent Solheim, who led the team of Rangers who went in and rescued Marcus Luttrell, of Lone Survivor fame. These men don’t cry easily. Also among my group was Leroy Petry, a selfless Ranger who lost his right arm in a Middle Eastern crap-hole by picking up a Taliban grenade and hurling it away from his team. Ranger Petry deserves one hell of a medal, for he is a King among these warrior princes (and, coincidentally, believed to be the first white man to be named Leroy since Korea). Among them, the guests of honor had thirteen missing or paralyzed limbs, yet I never laughed as hard in my life. I got stump-rubbed (which is like a really unsettling noogie) and had to shower with Ranger, the giant yellow lab service dog that made my bathroom look like the Zambezi Delta and Little Dave look like a cocktail weenie.
As I witnessed the finest display of one-legged, one-armed pheasant shooting in history, I felt like I’d found a way to pay a very tiny part of the bill I owe for the privilege of living in America. Next up, Feherty’s IED of Cycling in Hilton Head, the week after the Masters. Along with my golfers and hunters, I will have Ferris Butler, who after losing one leg and 54 surgeries, decided he could do without the other one. He will ride, as will Kenny Butler, who mislaid his left arm. Trek Bicycle Corporation is already on board, and their engineers will make the road bikes to fit. Hey, this is America. All I had to do was ask.