Army Master Sgt. Todd Nelson has undergone 43 operations since being injured in a suicide bombing about two years ago in Afghanistan.
The 39-year-old soldier, who lives in Texas, lost an ear and an eye in the attack, according to his father, Jim Miller of Bluffton.
In honor of Nelson and other injured service members, Miller and his friend Russ Spicer -- both Vietnam-era Army veterans -- created the nonprofit Wounded Warrior Foundation of the Lowcountry, an offshoot of the national Wounded Warrior Project and the first of its kind in Beaufort County. The national group raises awareness of the needs of injured service members to help them acclimate back into civilian life. The Lowcountry group will do the same. The foundation will raise money for the national organization and request it be used for injured service members from the Lowcountry.
"The Veterans Administration and the Army and other branches of the service do what they can, but there are certain things they can't do for the wounded soldiers," Spicer said.
When Spicer suggested to Miller they should host a golf tournament to raise money for Nelson, Miller responded that his son would not take a dime from anyone. The conversation eventually turned to raising money for the Wounded Warrior Project. They mentioned the idea to several people in the community, and a captain's choice golf tournament soon turned into creating a local foundation. The two men then met with Wounded Warrior officials in Jacksonville, Fla., and received their blessing to start a Lowcountry foundation.
Members of Hampton Hall in Bluffton, Miller and Spicer knew their neighbors would be supportive of their efforts. For the past four years, Hampton Hall has hosted a Veterans Week golf event during the week of Veterans Day. So the men had no problem asking the community to help with their new project. Hampton Hall will host the Wounded Warrior Golf Classic on May 23. The event also will have silent and live auctions, entertainment and dinner.
"Being the inaugural event, we really want this to be out of the park," Miller said.
He said the local foundation's goal is to raise $50,000. All money raised will benefit the national Wounded Warrior Project.
Foundation members are encouraging injured service members to play alongside others in the May tournament or ride along for the fun if they are unable to play.
"My goal in that, more than anything, is so the wounded warriors can see that other people care and that other people support them," Spicer said.
Miller and Spicer want this tournament to spur other events in the future -- more golf tournaments as well as marathons, tennis matches and social events. The idea is that various groups throughout the Lowcountry will organize different events to benefit the local foundation year after year.
"What we're looking to do is build a community that takes care of the guys that left ... to protect this community to allow us to live the way we live now in the country club style," Miller said. "These guys went out and paid the price. If they get hurt, the community ought to take care of them."