Patrick McArdle / Staff photo
Captain Zachariah Fike, company commander of Blackjack Troop, 1st Squadron, 172nd Cavalry Regiment (Mountain) in Bennington, center, was honored at the Vermont Wounded Warriors Golf Tournament at the Manchester Country Club on Wednesday where members of the USO Liberty Bells, from left, Tyler Wipfli, Katherine Beshear, Logan Rose Nelms and Kristen daCosta performed.
MANCHESTER — After serving their country and coming home with wounds, visible or not, almost 30 veterans from Vermont were given a free dinner and a day of golf at the Manchester Country Club.
Donald Keelan, of Arlington, who was one of the main organizers of the second annual Vermont Wounded Warriors Golf Tournament, said about 30 four-member teams golfed Wednesday, including 29 veterans who had been wounded at one time or another during their service. Keelan, a retired Marine, said about $35,000 was raised in connection with the event.
Proceeds from the event will go to several organizations including the Vermont Veterans Home in Bennington and the Dodge House in Rutland, which provides transitional housing for homeless veterans. The Veterans Transitional Assistance Center in Bennington and Purple Heart Reunited, an organization based in Georgia, Vt., that returns Purple Heart medals which have been lost or stolen with their original recipient or the recipient’s family will also receive donations.
Local veterans said they had a good time at the event Wednesday where members of the USO Liberty Bells sang and service flags were displayed. Andrew Zoufaly, a Manchester native and a Marine, said he appreciated being recognized for his service.
“It’s a great time. There are a lot of great people here. Everybody’s happy to be here and enjoying themselves and contributing to the benefit of this country. That’s what it all comes down to — being proud to be American and it’s nice to see patriotic people out here supporting the troops,” he said.
Wayne Hemingway Jr., an Army veteran from Manchester, said he appreciated the local support but said it was also a way for veterans in the community to get to know each other. Hemingway has another incentive to meet veterans because he is working with Southern Vermont College on a program that helps veterans get into college and reach graduation.
Young veterans like Zoufaly and Hemingway got some advice from the keynote speaker, Allan Faxon, a retired Marine colonel who formerly taught at Burr and Burton Academy and currently serves as the deputy administrator of the Vermont Veterans Home.
Faxon said veterans had a tendency to keep the details of their service to themselves once they return to the United States.
“That’s why we celebrate times like this. Times where we can get together, where we can talk. We can laugh. Man, this golf event was unbelievable watching people laugh as we tell our tales. Our guard kinda went down and you can share a little bit. It doesn’t happen often but boy is it tremendous,” he said. Veterans are “almost a secret society” whose members “blend in with their surroundings,” Faxon said.
“It shouldn’t be that way. Americans should know that you served and that you’re all heroes. It doesn’t matter what you did,” he said.
Keelan also introduced Capt. Zachariah Fike, company commander of the Bennington-based Blackjack Troop, 1st Squadron, 172nd Cavalry Regiment (Mountain), whose name will be added to a plaque at the country club that honors those who have supported veterans and the golf tournament.
Fike was chosen not just for his military service but also for founding Purple Hearts Reunited. Fike told the people at the event that the donation his organization received this year would help bring the family of a Purple Heart recipient to Washington, D.C., to learn more about how he died heroically during the Korean War.
There is no connection between the Manchester event and the national Wounded Warriors organization.
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