A Day of Love, Support and Respect; there really is no other way to describe the Golf Fore America’s Bravest event at the Broken Sound Club in Boca Raton, Florida.
Present in spirit was Stephen Siller, the NYFD firefighter that ran through the shutdown Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel to the Towers of the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001 to help those in need. Stephen gave his life out of a sense of duty and perished with other like-minded public servants and innocent victims that day; 2,995 souls lost in total.
Present in flesh was Army Sergeant Corey Kent, who lost his legs and left-hand fingers to a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on July 12th, 2010. He is one of 1,558 American service women and men with major limb amputations since September 11th. Thankfully, for the Building for America’s Bravest program of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, Corey is No. 41 on the list to receive a custom designed, specially adapted SMART home.
As the numbers indicate, the need to fund a home for these disabled veterans where they can cook, shower and do simple things like adjust the HVAC from a handheld electronic device, is immense.
Broken Sound Club member Sal Caragliano and his wife Wendy saw the need and organized the first fundraiser in 2011 in part for Will Lyles, an Army buddy of their son-in-law Ben Harrow. Will stepped on a pressure plate Improvised Explosive Device (IED) during a fire fight with insurgents in Afghanistan on August 28, 2010. The Army Team Leader of the 7th Special Forces Group suffered several injuries and lost both of his legs.
Ironically, Army Special Forces Captain Ben Harrow lost both legs due to an IED explosion in Afghanistan on May 15, 2012, eleven days after the second annual fundraiser at the Broken Sound Club. Less than nine months later, Captain Harrow hit the ceremonial first tee shot to kick off the Allianz Championship at Broken Sound Club.
There is a bridge of support from our September 11th heroes to our decorated American war heroes. While one could find the logo miniature Swilican Bridge markers on the tees of the Old Course at Broken Sound Club, you didn’t have to look far or listen very closely to see the human bridge embracing and supporting our disabled veterans on the warm and sunny day of the Golf Fore America’s Bravest event.
Joining Wendy and Sal Caragliano were Frank Siller, the brother of NYFD fallen hero Stephen Siller, Jack Hoem, retired NYFD Battalion Commander who brought along with him a traveling version of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum complete with a room devoted to Stephen Siller, and Danny Rodriguez, the singing NYPD retired policeman, who serenaded all souls present and above with his amazingly patriotic and resounding voice.
Stephen Siller was a golf nut like all of us. The plan of his last golf outing was to play 90 holes in one day. He and his brother Frank got in 54 with the last nine holes being Speed Golf, literally running from shot-to-shot. Earlier in the day he had lost a ball down in a water hazard and ended up emerging with a hundred or so balls while Frank repeatedly played the next par-3 hole.
On that fateful day in New York City, Stephen was headed for a brothers foursome of golf after coming off the graveyard shift as a NYFD firefighter right across the East River from Manhattan in Brooklyn. He heard the call on his scanner, turned around and headed back to the fire station for his gear. When he was confronted by a closed tunnel, he hopped out of his truck, put on his 60 pounds of gear and ran nearly two miles through the Tunnel to the Towers to help those in need. As his brother says in the video, “while Stephen was saving other people’s lives, he gave up his own.” I picture him playing Speed Hero in the Towers running from victim to victim and bringing them to safety probably rescuing more lives than he ever did golf balls.
Jack Oehm is a retired Battalion Commander of the NYFD. He was there that day in New York City. He survived. Twenty of his men did not. Off duty that day, he was on the top of the 110 stories of the World Trade Centers, which became a 12-story pile known as Ground Zero, by 11 am. His search for survivors continues today by insuring knowledge, inspiration and wisdom from September 11 survive in our minds and lead us to making our world a better place to be. It occurred to me as I observed him giving a tour of the traveling version of the National September 11 Museum & Memorial to Mrs. Mulligan’s eighth grade class (her real name) that they were all born shortly after September 11. Some young people legitimately don’t know and need to be informed. As for the rest of us who may have forgotten, as Jack points out in the video, about our September 11 and war heroes and the freedom they bring us—let’s remember now and do something to honor their memory and support the wounded and their families.
Commander Oehm is a stand-up guy focused on all things good in life. I am sure these eighth graders will remember this tour and Jack’s words for the rest of their lives. With the mural behind him he pointed out one of life’s greatest lessons—when you get knocked down, you get right back up. The World Trade Center Towers were knocked down by evil and the new Freedom Tower was built on inspiration, strength, and goodness. Stephen Siller ran the right way and the right race in life, from the Tunnel to the Towers to sacrifice his life for others. Private First Class Kyle Hockenberry got it right with his tattoo—”For those I love I will sacrifice.” What have we done to honor their memory and support the wounded and their families?
All of America’s patriotism and prayers can be found in one place—in the voice of Danny Rodriguez, America’s Beloved Tenor. On September 11 he was a NYPD police officer on his way to work crossing over the Verrazano Bridge from Staten Island to Brooklyn when he saw the smoke from the first Tower. He was one of the last civilian cars to make it through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, moments ahead of the running firefighter Stephen Siller. Planning to go right after emerging from the Tunnel to park at the Port Authority God directed him to go left at the last moment to spare his life so he could inspire us with his voice. He was a block away from the Towers when they came down. Now he is closer than ever to capturing the spirit and the sacrifice of those 2,995 heroes and innocent victims and bringing us to a more peaceful and loving world. “We can Choose to Believe,” is the duet he sings with his wife Marla, it really is that simple.
The the day they named the Broken Sound Club, the silence around this area was only broken by the sound of a golf ball being struck by a golf club. For sure, the peace and quiet of our world was shattered on September 11. Who knows when the world will become civilized again? One thing I know for sure is that next year’s Play Fore America’s Bravest day might be called Spirit Day for good cause as America’s Spirit will never be broken. Like Jack Oehm will tell you when touring the September 11 Exhibit, the lesson to be learned is when you fall down like the towers did, you get right back up, brush your self off and stand as tall as the new Freedom Tower. Or as Danny Rodriguez sings… God Bless America… and our world.
God Bless You and please donate to the Tunnel to Towers Foundation and say Thank You to those brave women and men who serve and protect us. And save us when the situation arises.