A story by Jose Lambiet of the PALM BEACH POST has officially made Ernie Els my favorite golfer.
One day after yet another disappointing finish at The Masters (18th), an unprompted Els, with no media in sight, took time to brighten the day of three seriously disabled military veterans. The golfer was at a waterside bar in Jupiter, FL., Monday when he saw the three men on a docked fishing boat.
One of the men was Josh Schichtl, a veteran of three Iraq tours who’s married with two children. Schichtl lost an eye, facial bones and most of his teeth in a double road-side bombing in Iraq 2007. Most recently, he’s endured eight surgeries and has rehabbed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for over two years.
Schichtl related the story about Els:
“We’re walking through this outdoors bar (the Grouper) to catch the van to the hotel and this man (one of the dudes sitting with Els) comes up to us and says Ernie Els would like to say ‘hi’. Now, I’m a big golfing fan and I saw him on TV at The Masters, so I never expected anything like that. You know, I’m from Arkansas.
“So we went to the bar, and sure enough, there was Ernie Els. It was amazing. He asked each of us about our experiences in Iraq and shared his experience in the South African army. We ended up sitting down and shooting the breeze with him for more than an hour. He kept buying rounds of beer. We had a great talk. He made us feel good.
“I know Ernie’s South African, but he is very patriotic about America.”
The 27-year-old Schichtl and his two disabled military veteran companions and their families were in Florida for an “all-expenses-paid five-day vacation, courtesy of the Jupiter non-profit A Wounded Warrior’s Second Chance.”
Sometimes it takes someone who didn’t grow up with the privileges that millions of American soldiers died for to remind us how important our veterans are, and how we shouldn’t be shy about thanking them every single day.