RBC Heritage

David Lauderdale: Wounded warriors get VIP treatment at Heritage

For his courage in a bloody battle in Iraq, U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Peter J. Lara's nation honored him with the Silver Star.

This Sunday, during the final round of the Heritage golf tournament in Sea Pines, local volunteers will honor him with a cool sip of water and a warm meal.

Lara is to be a special guest at the Patriots' Outpost at the 18th tee of Harbour Town Golf Links.

The outpost is a hospitality tent for active-duty military, their dependents and wounded warriors to relax and enjoy complimentary food and beverages donated by local businesses.

Now in its second year, the outpost is to host four men associated with the Wounded Warrior Project. Outpost organizer Jack Wilson of Hilton Head Island, a retired U.S. Navy captain, also expects hundreds of troops from nearby bases. They are being served by volunteers and teams of hospitality management majors from the University of South Carolina Beaufort.

"We want to thank them for their service, their sacrifices and their willingness to join us," Wilson said.

Perhaps Lara can find this scene a just reward for what he experienced in close-quarters combat in November 2005 in Mosul.

He was shot in the face, arm, leg and neck. A bullet lodged in his brain. He underwent more than 30 surgeries. But like the night he was injured, he refuses to stop serving others. He remains in the service, stationed at Fort Jackson in Columbia.

He was honored to lead the pledge of allegiance during Gov. Nikki Haley's inauguration in January, but his primary duty has been advocacy for wounded troops and inspiring them to press on and not feel sorry for themselves.

When he was named the 2009 Soldier of the Year by Military Times, a supervising colonel said: "1st Sgt. Lara had other options in life, but he chose to volunteer to serve his country. He is willing to fight and die to defend our country, our values and our way of life. He is what makes the enemies of the United States afraid -- he will give his life so others can live in freedom."

The Patriots' Outpost is sponsored by Berkeley Capital Management LLC. Beverages are donated by Coca-Cola, paper goods by Walmart, and food by Celebration Events, Wild Wing Cafe, Sea Pines Catering and Southern Way Catering.

Active military and their dependents, as well as wounded warriors from any war or conflict, are admitted free to the Heritage.

"The more awareness we can create on what these men and women have done on our behalf," Wilson said, "the more we can give them the thanks and the respect they so richly deserve."