RBC HERITAGE TEAMS WITH CALLAWAY GOLF AND BIRDIES FOR THE BRAVE® TO HONOR TWO LOCAL WOUNDED HEROES
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – As the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War approaches, the RBC Heritage helped remind Americans about the continued need to support those returning home from combat with serious injuries by honoring two local wounded warriors this week as part of its support for Birdies for the Brave. On Monday at Harbor Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, SC, Purple Heart recipients Charlie Pannell from Anderson, SC, and Anthony Smith from Savannah, GA, had the opportunity to participate in Birdies for the Brave’s Callaway Warrior Club Fitting Program – where they were fitted with their own custom set of Callaway Golf clubs, took a tour of the Callaway truck where clubs are fitted for TOUR players on-site, and participated in a mini lesson on the practice facility.
One of more than 15 fittings scheduled to take place during TOUR tournaments in 2015 thanks to the generosity of Callaway Golf, the event was designed to aid in the rehabilitation process while expressing gratitude for the service and sacrifice of these two American heroes – both of whom sustained serious injuries during tours of duty in Iraq.
Pannell was injured in 2008 while leading a patrol as commander of a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle. His was the last vehicle traveling through the busy market town of Mosul when three young boys ran into the street and threw armor-piercing grenades at the vehicle. Each grenade exploded upon impact and ripped through the vehicle, instantly injuring his entire squad. Pannell’s lower extremities were destroyed. His squad was rushed to a hospital on base and all four survived but with severed limbs. Pannell was awarded a Purple Heart for his injuries and a Bronze Star for selflessly providing first aid to his squad before applying it to himself. After spending a year in recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center working to salvage his leg, an infection required the leg to be amputated. Pannell began playing golf after the amputation as therapy and receives lessons each month.
Smith sustained his injuries in 2004 during his deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He and his platoon were performing a security convoy operation in Balad, Iraq, when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device (IED). The blast threw Smith and the vehicle into a nearby ditch. He and his squad were then airlifted to a hospital on base. Following his recovery, Smith returned to his platoon and completed the remainder of his deployment. He returned to Iraq in 2009 for a second deployment and currently serves the United States Army as a Brigade Unmanned Aerial Systems Officer in Savannah, Georgia. Smith was awarded a Purple Heart for his injuries during his first deployment along with two Army Commendation medals and three Army Achievement medals.
“Golf is an extraordinary way for wounded service members to heal from the physical and psychological wounds of war, as well as a great coping mechanism as they reintegrate into civilian life,” says Callaway Golf Company Vice President of Sports Marketing Nick Raffaele. “We are honored to work in partnership with the PGA TOUR and Birdies for the Brave to express our sincere gratitude and give something back to these courageous American heroes, who have sacrificed so much to help keep America safe and free.”
Both heroes were extremely appreciative for the opportunity, as well as the support provided by the RBC Heritage and the local community.
“It’s pretty neat that the community supports wounded warriors. Every soldier who deploys comes back with some type of injury, whether they are physical or invisible scars. Each one bears a burden that only those on the front lines may know. For Callaway and Birdies for the Brave to rally behind us, provide rehabilitation opportunities, and just say thank you, is really incredible,” said Smith.
The Callaway Warrior Club Fitting program is just one of many military outreach initiatives that are part of Birdies for the Brave, a military outreach initiative dedicated to honoring and showing appreciation to the courageous members of our U.S. Armed Forces and their families. Named in 2012 by the White House one of the top 20 charities that support military families, Birdies for the Brave was created in 2006 by PGA TOUR player Phil Mickelson and his wife, Amy, to support combat-wounded veterans. The PGA TOUR subsequently adopted Birdies for the Brave, and expanded it to include a wide variety of military outreach and appreciation efforts during PGA TOUR tournaments, as well as fundraising events conducted at the TOUR’s TPC Network of clubs – an effort that has raised more than $13 million for 11 military homefront groups that are supported by TOUR players. To learn more or make a donation, visit www.birdiesforthebrave.org or follow them on Facebook.