Bradenton's IMG Academy Golf Club hosts overflow tournament field

Veterans hit the links for 'Golf Supports Our Troops'

vmannix@bradenton.comJanuary 7, 2013 

MANATEE -- The foursome's photo was a keeper with Rudy Salas, Herb Wyman, Steve Allberry and Doc Milligan striking a pose before teeing off at the IMG Academy Golf Club.

Monday morning's drizzle couldn't dampen their smiles.

"No big deal," said Salas, 66. "We've been wet before."

And worse. Way worse.

Their prosthetic legs -- each has one -- gave mute testimony.

The four Vietnam War veterans, the country's only all-amputee color guard, were part of a big field on hand for the Golf Supports Our Troops 2013 veterans tournament at IMG Academy Golf Club.

The morning shotgun start of 128

filled up so fast, the club agreed to host an afternoon shotgun start for that many golfers, as well.

"This is fantastic," said Milligan, 66.

The event was the brainchild of Brian Coleman, a Manatee County winter resident and golf aficionado who wanted to do something to show appreciation for veterans' sacrifices and contribute to their social and physical rehabilitation.

His nonprofit has donated thousands of pieces of golf equipment to 108 VA hospitals nationwide, to military units in Afghanistan and Iraq and hosted disabled vets at PGA Tour events.

"I never had the honor of serving, but I figure if we could improve the life of one veteran, then that'd be a success," the Madison, N.J., native said. "This is a great day for veterans."

Monday's drizzle notwithstanding.

"It's Florida," said Marine Jeff Brunell, 30, who was wounded in Afghanistan. "This is nice, because it gets us out."

"You just don't see things like this happening very much, an organization that does something for vets," said Bob Mullins, also 66, who served as an Army ranger in Vietnam.

Each veteran received a set of U.S. military ball markers bearing the official seals of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard as a gift.

"The most important thing to me is the camaraderie," Salas said. "We know what we've all been through."

He was 18 when he stepped on a landmine on patrol in Vietnam.

Doc Milligan, 66, lost his leg in an explosion aboard the missile frigate USS Coontz in 1967.

Herb Wyman, 66, a Navy Seabee, lost his leg to circulation problems caused by Agent Orange, a controversial herbicide used by the U.S. to destroy the enemy's jungle cover and food supply.

"We were kids then," Salas said. "But now people are starting to show their appreciation. They appreciate us more than they ever did when we came home."

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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