Written by Jamie Winslow Co-Founder of SMGA
It stands just a few miles away, we’ve all sped by it hundreds of times, but how much thought have we ever given to what goes on in that massive structure just off the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Cedar Lane. As a result of realignments and closures, the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center was formed by merging the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Bethesda Naval Hospital. It is the largest military medical center in the country and often the first destination of care for warriors wounded and injured during global conflicts.
For the past eight years, one local Maryland group has been bringing the game of golf as a form of mental and physical rehabilitation to the post-9/11 wounded and injured warriors from Walter Reed/Bethesda. Co-founded by two life long Montgomery County residents, the SMGA (www.smga.org) has grown beyond its humble roots. Today, the SMGA operates at more than eight locations across the country, conducts hundreds of golf clinics each year, and has given away nearly a thousand sets of customized, fitted golf clubs.
Although more than 2000 wounded and injured warriors have taken at least one lesson at an SMGA sponsored location, the organization, until just recently, was an all volunteer organization. More than 90% of all the funds it takes in directly benefits warriors’ recovery through the game of golf, and many warriors credit golf for literally saving their lives. To hear the SMGA tell it, recovery, particularly the wounds associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), can last a lifetime and golf is a game that can be played for life. The SMGA program, from instructional clinics and lessons to equipment and golf course access is designed to mirror that lifelong timeline.
The success the SMGA has had over the years has involved random acts of kindness too numerous to count. Facilities such as Olney Golf Park and the country clubs at Argyle, Manor, and Norbeck have opened their doors to SMGA warrior golfers; PGA of America golf professionals have given hours of instruction time; local companies and individuals have provided funding; and local restaurants such as the Green Turtle, Ledo’s Pizza, Subway, and Urban BBQ have donated countless slices, subs, and sauces to the lunches that are provided at each clinic.
While this is only one warrior’s story (http://www.pgamediacenter.com/videos/2013_BeyondTheGreen.cfm?vid=2&seek=934), without even really knowing it, our community has come together to deliver a random act of kindness to those American heroes who have given so much to protect our nation’s freedom.