Veterans Honored at the 2018 CCF Golf Classic
Here’s a look at the Veterans whom we are honored to have as distinguished guests at the 8th Annual Carrington Charitable Foundation Golf Classic. But first: September 27 is the last day to finish loading your baskets for the CCF Associates Basket Competition. Those goody-laden baskets are the prizes being auctioned at this year’s CCF Golf Classic to raise money for our Veteran-focused Signature Programs. The CCF Golf Classic place Monday, Oct. 8, 2018, at The Resort on Pelican Hill, Newport Coast, CA.
CCF’s programs help a wide range of Veterans with medical treatment, physical rehabilitation, education, housing, transportation, and employment. Here are the stories of the Veterans who will be joinig us at the CCF Golf Classic.
U.S. Army Sergeant Andrew Smith of Tennessee served in the 82nd Airborne and was injured on his first deployment in Afghanistan in March 2012. On patrol, he stepped on a pressure plate, triggering an improvised explosive device (IED) that cost him his left leg below the knee and his right leg above the knee, and caused severe abdominal injuries.
Andrew’s recovery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, lasted 20 months and included many surgeries. He was able to return home to Chattanooga, TN, with wife Tori in July 2013.
Andrew now has started a woodworking business called Riser Burn Woodcrafts. After a break from her law school studies to care for her husband, Tori has earned her law degree and passed the bar exam in Tennessee. The couple adopted their son, Henson, in August 2016.
The Smiths now are founders of Honoring the Sacrifice Foundation, which helps post-9/11 Purple Heart Recipients.
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Aubrey Hand joined the Air Force Reserve as a Security Forces member in 2010. He voluntarily deployed to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan in 2012, working with the Afghan national police and army, among many other assignments.
On patrol one day, an IED was detonated under Aubrey’s vehicle, resulting in serious injuries to his left foot and causing Traumatic Brain Injury. He was further diagnosed with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, tearing of his Achilles tendon, a fractured heel, memory issues, and decreased vision.
After assessment and treatment in Landstuhl, Germany, Aubrey Hand returned to Fort Bragg, NC, where he spent the next four years in occupational and physical therapy, with additional surgeries and procedures on his injured leg.
Medically retired in July 2015, Aubrey had by then earned a Purple Heart, the Air Force Commendation Medal and Combat Action Medal, the Meritorious Unit Award, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service Medal, and National Defense Service Medal.
In 2016, Aubrey’s left leg was amputated below the knee, relieving the constant nerve pain he had suffered since the explosion. Recovering at Walter Reed was “life changing,” he says. An avid competitive runner since high school, Aubrey set a new goal of regaining his athletic ability. He now competes in hand-cycling marathons, plays golf, swims, paddleboards, and was snowboarding five months after the amputation.
Aubrey Hand has returned to college to finish his bachelor’s degree, taking time during school breaks to go snowboarding with wife Jasmine and son Theron. The family is one of this year’s recipients of a Carrington House, renovated and adapted for ease of use and access.
U.S. Marine Corps First Sergeant Ben Holmes served 20 years on active duty, with six deployments and three combat tours, including two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. In 2011 while deployed to Afghanistan, Ben’s vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb, shattering his leg, and leaving him with a broken pelvis. His treatment and recovery at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego lasted more than a month. In 2012, after 16 surgeries, doctors decided Ben’s left leg needed to be amputated.
Ben credits wife Diana, whom he met when they were both just out of high school, as “simply the single most important piece” of his recovery. She is, says Ben, “the very heart of our incredible family.”
With their five children — Nicole, Chase, Kyle, Ben, and Ashley – Ben and Diana Holmes live in the very first Carrington House donated by Bank of America in Oceanside, CA. Ben now has a master’s degree in education, a second master’s in history, and is a substitute teacher currently pursuing his Ed.D. in educational leadership. “I look forward to finding a way to positively impact the lives of others,” he says, “in the same way that so many ordinary Americans have positively impacted the lives of my family.”
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Brian Kolfage was on his second deployment to Iraq in 2004 when he left his tent and walked right into the explosion of a 107mm rocket shell, losing both legs and his right hand. He spent 11 months at Walter Reed, and upon release he served on Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford’s Veterans Advisory Committee, providing insight in how better to help Vets.
Brian has since earned his bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Arizona, co-founded Military Grade Coffee Company, and built a social media news operation that’s drawn millions of readers. In 2018 with the help of CCF, Brian founded Warfighter Fishing, a nonprofit that, starting next spring, will take Vets on rehabilitation-based offshore fishing trips.
Based in Florida with wife Ashley, daughter Paris and son Beckham, Brian makes occasional visits back to Walter Reed to visit newly wounded Vets, sharing his story of recovery, and encouraging them to focus on the future.
U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg enlisted right after high school and was assigned to 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment in 2002. In 2009, on his tenth combat rotation, Cory was seriously wounded by an IED, with injuries so severe, he spent three months in a coma. After hospital stays in Germany and Maryland, he was transferred to the James Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa, FL, and eventually returned home to Phoenix, AZ, to continue his recovery using VA Center programs. Seven years and several dozen surgeries later, Cory is making remarkable progress, participating in local, state, national, and international events, and inspiring others to “keep pushing on” when challenged by personal and physical setbacks.
Cory now is co-chairman of the AZ Wall Project, which is working to bring a scaled-down version of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall to Arizona. He’s also the ambassador for the Driven to Drive initiative with TrueCar, which makes necessary adaptations to vehicles for wounded service members. Cory was inducted into his Phoenix high school’s Hall of Fame recently, and he’s received numerous decorations and awards, including the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, and Army Commendation Medal for Valor.
U.S. Army Master Sergeant David Glenn enlisted one week after graduating from high school in 1996, initially as an Infantryman. He later was selected to attend the Special Forces Qualification Course, gradating two weeks after 9/11. He was deployed to Afghanistan in January 2002, the first of four combat deployments. He was wounded in 2004 when his vehicle struck an IED. As the only medic assigned to his detachment, he provided treatment to two other team members who were with him, then treated his own wounds before being rescued. For his actions, David was awarded the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal with Valor, and was selected to be the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Medic of the Year for 2004.
David’s extensive physical injuries included a traumatic left eye cataract, penetrating shrapnel to his brain’s right frontal lobe, a fractured jaw, loss of his left ring finger, an open radial fracture in his left arm, loss of his right leg below the knee, 18 fractures in his left ankle, and numerous internal wounds. His left leg was amputated in 2006 after it failed to heal properly.
In spite of all this, David continued to serve in uniform for nine more years before medically retiring in 2013. During that time, he returned twice to Afghanistan and earned two promotions.
Married to wife Robin since 2002, David is a father of two: son Wyatt, who is on the autism spectrum; and daughter Megan, nicknamed “Mayhem.”
Since retirement from the service, David Glenn has been busy in the private sector, doing training and consulting for various government agencies.
U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Holly Katke enlisted in 1998 and after basic training and Hospital Corpsman “A” School, was assigned to the Naval Health Clinic in Cherry Point, NC, and later received more medical training at Naval Medical Training Command in Portsmouth, VA. Her first sea duty assignment was aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, where she completed deployments to the Western Pacific and Persian Gulf, serving as both an Enlisted Surface Warfare and Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist.
Holly then graduated in 2008 from the Navy’s most intense enlisted medical training program and reported to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC. The following year, she was deployed to Ramadi, Iraq, to provide medical support to SEAL Teams One and Three as an Expeditionary Warfare Specialist.
On April 15, 2010, while working with a Special Forces team in Iraq, Holly was critically wounded in action by sniper fire. She was medically evacuated back to the U.S. with injuries that included visual impairment and loss of mobility in her right arm, hand, and leg.
Since returning home, Holly has undergone extensive surgeries and treatment, but has managed to continue her education, earning a bachelor’s degree, and working toward a master’s. With her daughter Leah, Holly Katke moved this summer to Gilbert, AZ, where her Carrington House is currently being completed for move-in in October. She is the first woman combat Veteran to be a Carrington House recipient.
U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Jesse Clingman spent a decade in the service as an Artillery 13 Foxtrot, an Army military occupational specialty that involves calling in and providing support to ground troops. He served in Kosovo and later was deployed to Afghanistan, where he served as a task force Combat Observation Laser Team (COLT) Chief, and then was sent to Iraq.
In 2007, on security detail delivering and escorting supplies to local bases, Jesse’s convoy vehicle was struck by two explosive devices, sending him and his driver careening into a field as their vehicle lost power. Unable to move his arms and legs, Jesse still ordered his gunner to flash the rest of the convoy, coming up about 1000 meters behind, warning them of danger.
Jesse lost his left leg in the explosion and his left arm suffered severe nerve damage. Jesse recalls that while waiting to be rescued, he focused his thoughts on his family back home in Texas. “While I was fighting to stay awake that night, the thought in my mind was to pull through for my children,” he says. “I didn’t want to have this as my family’s last memory of me. I wanted to pull through and carry on to the next chapter.”
He’s certainly done that. Since his medical retirement from the military, Jesse Clingman has faced other challenges, including losing his home to a flood. (CCF awarded the Clingmans a Carrington House after that.)
Jesse now coaches Pop Warner football and delivers motivational speeches at local schools on Veterans’ Day. He also participates in VFW rodeos and events, and continues to train as a martial artist, a passion he’s pursued since he was California State Gold Medalist in Taekwondo in the 1996 Junior Olympics.
U.S. Army Master Sergeant John Masson served for 17 years, with combat deployments in Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, and Enduring Freedom. In 2017, while conducting Village Stability Operations in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, John stepped on an IED and lost three limbs, but still managed to aid his fellow Medical Sergeant and teammates in treating wounds. For this he was awarded the Purple Heart and a second Bronze Star.
John says activities such as hand-cycling, weightlifting, and swimming helped him stay strong during his long recovering. He and wife Dustina (high school classmates back in Indiana) both adhere to a positive outlook on life. “Support for John and our family is really touching and mind-blowing,” says Dustina. “Each day is a testament to his strength.”
“I always look forward,” says John. “It’s a strong message that we relay right back to the enemy – that you didn’t do anything to this guy.”
As an official Ambassador to the Carrington Charitable Foundation, John Masson’s courage and strength are daily reminders of why we support Veteran housing initiatives.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Johnnie Yellock grew up in a military family. He enlisted after graduating from Tarleton State University in Texas in 2006 with a degree in manufacturing and engineering. He began his service career as a Combat Controller in the Air Force Special Operations Command, where he was certified as an air traffic controller, trained static line and free-fall jumper, and became an Army-qualified SCUBA diver.
During his second deployment to Afghanistan in 2011, Johnnie’s vehicle struck an IED and he suffered massive injuries to both legs. On the scene, in pain and with tourniquets on his wounds, he guided Medevac with the help of an interpreter to get his team and himself to a nearby hospital. For his bravery and dedication to his team, he was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Combat Action Medal.
Back at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Johnnie spent three years in rehab. To date, he’s undergone 30 surgeries to save his legs, including having his ankles fused, and being fitted with leg braces for healing. Throughout his tough recovery, however, he played golf as party of his physical therapy.
He was medically retired from active duty in November 2013.
Since then, Johnnie has dedicated time and energy to serving the needs of fellow Vets and wounded service members through nonprofit organizations. Professionally, he’s in the insurance industry, but often does public speaking, encouraging other Veterans to share their stories. He supports the Mark Forester Foundation in honor of his best friend, who died in action in Afghanistan.
“I think it’s important before you join the military – before you make that leap, before you sign on the dotted line – to have something in your mind that is worth fighting for. Something that’s bigger than yourself,” says Johnnie Yellock. “Something that’s going to get you out of bed every day and continue to push you forward. For me, that has always been my family. And since my injury, it’s been the same. It’s been my friends and my family, and my relationship with my Lord and Savior, that have kept me sustained and motivated.”
U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Michael Jernigan served with Company E 2nd Battalion 2nd Marine regiment. In August 2004 while on a deployment in Iraq, Michael’s platoon was on patrol when it was hit by two 155mm artillery shells buried underground. His life-threatening, life-changing injuries included having 45 percent of his cranium crushed, shrapnel that entered his right eye and exited through his left, a fractured patella, and a severed femoral artery. He was the first American service member to lose both eyes in the global war on terror, enduring 30 major surgeries in the first 12 months of his 16 months of treatment and recovery.
In the 13 years since the attack, Michael has dedicated his life to community service, focusing on helping Veterans. He co-founded Paws for Patriots at Southeastern Guide Dogs, which provides service animals to Vets. He is also busy as a motivational speaker and author (his book is titled Vision), and does peer-to-peer counseling. In 2017, Michael was given the Ross Perot Patriot Award for turning his traumatic experience into a life full of new purpose and helping others.
Today Michael Jernigan is Vice President of the Blinded American Veterans Foundation. He and wife KimberLee recently relocated to Texas from Florida.
U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Taylor Morris was injured in action in Afghanistan in 2012 on his first tour of duty. He sustained injuries to all four limbs, losing both his legs above the knee, his left arm above the elbow, and his right hand entirely. Taylor was airlifted to Kandahar, then to Germany for treatment of his wounds, and finally back to the U.S.
While Taylor was in recovery at Walter Reed, re-learning life functions as a triple amputee, his longtime girlfriend Danielle joined him, living with him at the hospital for two years before they eventually moved back home to Cedar Falls, IA.
Today Taylor and Danielle say they “pay it forward” as often as they can, holding fundraisers for charitable causes. Every summer they host a “Glowstick 5K Race” to honor inspirational people within their community.
Taylor now has graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a B.A. in business management and is working for a real estate developer in Cedar Falls. Danielle has earned her master’s in business administration while working as a Realtor. And after a decade together, full of more challenging life events than other couples face in a lifetime, the two recently married and moved into a new home.
U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills served in the 82nd Airborne. In 2012, on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan, just four days before his 25th birthday, he was critically injured by an IED while on patrol, losing parts of both legs and both arms. Travis is one of only five quadruple amputees from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to survive his level of traumatic injuries.
After treatment and recovery at Walter Reed, Travis retired from the military and became a “recalibrated warrior,” turning to motivational speaking, acting, and writing. His memoir Tough as They Come was a New York Times best seller (and is still available in bookstores and on Amazon). The award-winning documentary, Travis: A Soldier’s Story, based on his book, has been screened at film festivals nationwide, and at the nation’s Capitol for a special audience of government leaders, active service men and women, Veterans, and Gold Star Families.
Even without limbs, Travis Mills swims, dances with his wife, rides mountain bikes, and drives his daughter to school. “I’m just a man with scars,” he says, “living life to the fullest and best I know how.”
U.S. Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Ward Taft began his career as a general Navy Corpsman, serving in a hospital setting. But he felt called to do more, which led to service alongside several Marine Corps Units, including the 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company, and eventually the Marine Corps Special Operations Command as an embedded operator. Over 15 years he was deployed to several combat theaters. During his last deployment to Afghanistan, Ward was thrown from the back of a vehicle into the windshield at high speed, sustaining a moderate brain injury that affected his sight, balance, and cognitive processing center. He still has limited vision and relies on his service dog, Dr. Doolittle, to help him navigate daily tasks and aid in keeping his balance.
After a year of recovery and therapy, Ward Taft returned to active duty status to complete his tenure in the Navy, mentoring junior sailors on topics such as leadership and tenacity.
Today Ward, a recent recipient of a Carrington House, is studying for his bachelor’s degree in emergency and disaster management at Western Carolina University, scheduled to graduate in June 2019 on his way to a career in disaster relief. The Taft family are active volunteers with organizations that support wounded Vets.