GIVING BACK: Annual Lake Wildwood golf fundraiser aids injured vets |

GIVING BACK: Annual Lake Wildwood golf fundraiser aids injured vets

Chris Paulsen, U.S. Navy Ret. 1990-95, West Pac, Sacramento chips during the 2014 Injured Vets Golf Tournament at the Lake Wildwood Golf Course.
The Union file photo by John Hart | The Union

For Army veteran Alex Jauregui, who lost both his legs in Afghanistan, it was a customized tractor.

For Marine Corps veteran Joshua Hotaling, who lost both his legs as well as his right thumb and part of his index finger in Afghanistan, it was a customized Harley Davidson trike.

For Army veteran Noah Bailey, who lost both his legs below the knee in Afghanistan, it was a rebuilt Dodge truck.

For Navy veteran Chris Paulsen, who lost his lower left leg while serving his country, it was a specialized wheelchair so he could participate in bowling competitions.

For Army veteran Adam Keys, who suffered a severe brian injury, lost his left hand, right leg above the knee and left leg below the knee in Afghanistan, it was two steel worktables, top-of-the-line toolboxes, dozens of high quality tool sets and a $1,000 gift card to an online model car store to buy parts for his RC cars.

These veterans and many more put their lives on the line and sacrificed a great deal for their country. That’s why the nonprofit Patriots Honor named them “Star Recipients,” singling them out and offering aid in an effort to, as the Patriots Honor motto states, “Give back to those who gave.”

The mission of Patriots Honor is to empower wounded veterans to pursue their passions while overcoming the challenges of rehabilitation and reintegration into civilian life, according to their website

“I re-enlisted three times — I knew the risks,” Jauregui told the Union in 2016. “But after I got hurt, I wondered if it was worth it. There are so many things I can’t do. But a gesture like this is more than getting a tractor — it makes me feel appreciated. I have so much respect for the veterans who are helping people like me — brothers looking out for brothers.”

Patriots Honor came to be in 2012, after U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Brent Hammond and Chief Master Sergeant Stuart Bisland were playing golf with a group of disabled veterans. Hammond and Bisland were inspired by the stories of veterans who had overcome the struggles of adapting to life with serious injuries. As a result, they founded Patriots Honor to provide financial support for disabled war veterans who have suffered life-changing injuries while fighting for their country.

“After getting to know these guys, we said, ‘we can do more for them,’” Bisland said.

Patriots Honor has been helping injured vets ever since. This year’s Star Recipient is Brian Jergens, who needs a workout room and equipment to recover from being critically injured by an improvised explosive device.

The nonprofit prides itself on making sure all the money raised, minus the costs for running the events, goes to injured veterans. Most of the money is raised through golf fundraisers held all over California each year, like the Injured Veterans Golf Tournament coming to Lake Wildwood July 26th.

“The Lake Wildwood Community is phenomenal,” said Bisland. “What’s so different about this community is they are so patriotic. I don’t get more than 4 feet without somebody stopping me to say ‘thanks.’ They are old school and unbelievably supportive.”

The fundraising tournament has become an annual event at the Lake Wildwood Golf Course, now in its fourth year.

“I feel it’s our responsibility to take care of these kids,” said Mike Byrne, co-chair of the event at Lake Wildwood. “We owe it to these kids that they lead as normal a life as possible.”

Army veteran Cody Rice, who lost his right leg in Afghanistan, applauds the efforts of Patriots Honor.

“It’s cool that people like Patriots Honor are willing go above and beyond their normal daily life to help,” Rice said. “Who knows what people are going through at the time, and that might be just what they need. They just need someone to help them from military life to civilian life … I feel like they will do whatever it is to help you transition from military life to civilian life.”

Rice has played in the Lake Wildwood Injured Veterans Golf Tournament before and plans to play again this year. He will do so with the golf bag he received from Patriots Honor, a gift he did not expect.

“I’m not a big fan of receiving things,” he said. “But when they gave me that golf bag, I thought that was cool.”

To participate, sponsor a hole or donate to the Lake Wildwood Injured Veterans Golf Tournament, contact co-founder and tournament facilitator Dan Pray at 530-432-8844, Byrne at 530-432-3948 or visit

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email Staff Writer Cory Fisher contributed to this article.

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