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February 26, 2017

Closing the Golf Course at Washington, D.C.'s Armed Forces Retirement Home:

An Effective Means for Rehabilitating Our Troops Being Terminated

Fr. Gene Hemrick

He looked like an NFL fullback. When, however, we played golf I learned he had a titanium shoulder due to being blown out of a Hummer in Afghanistan. Playing with another veteran I found out he was coping with night mares of blown up civilians he doctored as a medic. Both friends seemed normal healthy people but I wondered about the nightmares. I never asked about them. Such things require reverential space. They did confide golf was a life-saver.

Reflecting on the sacrifices of the residents at the Armed Forces Retirement Home [AFRH], I feel honored knowing them. When it comes to the backbone of this country, they top the list.

AFRH's nine-hole golf course has hosted presidents, PGA professionals and other dignitaries; the most prominent being its residents. At the moment action is underway to close it. This will be tragic. It is true nothing lasts forever and economic woes abound. Equally true are realtors who would love to build on the golf course and reap millions of dollars, all in the name of development and progress.

General Douglas MacArthur once said, "Old soldiers never die, they just fade away." It would be easy to let the course fade away. After all isn't a golf course a luxury and expensive to maintain? Likewise, new government regimes use belt-tightening to advance their careers. [Keeping AFRH's course open wouldn't cost more than two military Hummers a year].

Why fight to keep the course open? It's because of veterans suffering from physical and psychological wounds needing all the therapy available. It is because of the high rate of service men and women committing suicide daily and others ending up homeless. It is because studies have proven golf is excellent therapy: it creates wholesomeness. It is much healthier to figure out a putt than being a couch-potato watching T.V. all day. Competing with a golf partner is more energizing than succumbing to a retired sedentary life-style. Most important is the awesome potential AFRH possesses for creating and expanding imaginative programs for rehabilitating our soldiers. If this is already happening around the country shouldn't it take first place in our capital? Equally significant is the course rests on historical and sacred ground containing Abraham Lincoln's home and an adjoining cemetery where those who fought to keep our country safe and sound sleep.

In 2016 senators, congresswomen, generals, lobbyists and members of the AFRH did their best to keep the course open. It hasn't happened yet. [Andrew's Air Force golf managers agreed to take over the course but then backed away]. As one general told me, "Most everything in Government is political." Yes, this is a fact of life. If, however, politicians are responsible for sending men and women into harms-way, shouldn't they be especially responsible for employing the best means available for those in need of rehabilitation afterwards? Are men and women needing extended help supposed to just fade away?

The fate of the AFRH course is more than veterans enjoying golf; its bottom line is about preserving an effective health-enhancing environment for those who have sacrificed their life for our sake. It's a worthy cause making the statement, "We care, thank you for your services."

If you feel keeping the AFRH golf course open is a worthy cause, please let your voice be heard.

---Petition the White House at Whitehouse.gov

---Especially petition Secretary of Defense [DOD] Jim Mattis

---Write the director of the Armed Forces Retirement Home Dr. Tim Kangas --- 3700 N. Capitol St. NW Washington, DC 20011-8400 and express your concerns.

Contact any of the following you may know and get them involved:

--- Fr. Gene Hemrick Hemricke@cua.edu

--- Disabled American Veterans (DAV) www.dav.org

--- The Veterans Administration (VA) U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

--- The Veterans of Foreign Wars VFW - Veterans of Foreign Wars USA va.gov

--- AMVETS amvets@amvets.org

---Your American Legion

---The Military Order of the Purple Heart Ernesto P. Hernandez National Adjutant

---The Medal of Honor Society, Tom Kelly, President, Congressional Medal of Honor Society: medalhq@cmohs.org

--- United Health Care unitedhealthgroup.com/military and veterans

--- The National World War II Museum www.nationalww2museum.org

---The PGA of America

Paul Levy, president
100 Avenue of Champions
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418

--- Golf Course Manager
4442 W. Perimeter Rd.
Andrews Air Force Base, MD 20762

--- friendsofsoldiers.org, Friends of the Soldiers Home, Post Office Box 3170, Washington, DC 20010

--- USO Box 96860 Washington, D.C. 20077-7677