A Just Cause

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An empathy derived from experience and a desire to share with the uninformed masses the tribulations servicemen and women endure after returning stateside following combat has led Rusty Whitt into a position of service and sacrifice that he enthusiastically embraces.

Whitt understands the feelings of anguish and alienation that accompany the transition to civilian life for those who completed tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, difficulties that gnaw away at the psyche of the physically able. His heart is particularly vulnerable for those who were wounded overseas and those whose families were left to pick up the pieces after a loved one lost their life defending this country. Whitt wants to explain their travails, and perhaps his participation in the Birdies For The Brave Golf Fundraiser will provide him that opportunity.

The Birdies For The Brave Golf Fundraiser, created to benefit six charities established to assist injured and fallen service members and their families, will be held at Meadowbrook Farms Golf Club in Katy on Sunday, Nov. 8 at 10 a.m. Whitt, in his first season as a strength and conditioning coach with the Owls, will be there lending his time and energy to a cause as powerful as the nationalism and sense of duty that drove him to enlist in the Army post-9/11.

"I've had numerous friends who never came back from Iraq or Afghanistan," Whitt said. "I've had a couple personal acquaintances that I trained with, guys that I've known for a while who were injured, and I know the kind of psychological hurdles they have to go over to have a normal life. To partake in something like this and show these guys that we're behind them, to let them have a fun day and a day for them would mean a lot to them.

"So many guys come back and they get alienated and they don't fit in with the people around them because nobody really understands what they're going through. The separation from not only their team or their unit but they can't partake in a normal activity like they used to, there are all kinds of emotional struggles that they go through. This is just a one-day thing and you wish that you could do more, but I think it's an awesome cause and hopefully it will be a great turnout and these guys will see the kind of support that we have for them."

Approximately 40 injured service members will be in attendance on Sunday. The previous evening a fundraising gala and silent auction will take place at the Safari Texas Ballroom at the golf clubhouse. Registration for the tournament begins two hours prior to the shotgun start.

Whitt spent 5 1/2 years with the United States Army, serving on the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) for Operation Iraqi Freedom V and VI. He was a senior communications sergeant, and trained and led hundreds of Iraqi solders on combat missions. He earned a combat infantry badge and two Iraqi campaign medals. He received an Army Commendation Medal with Valor, so his experiences are such that he can relate to the plight of his brethren.

"I got out of the Army in January, and when my Army I.D. card expired I felt like my eligibility was out so to speak," Whitt said. "I made a lot of really dear friends while I was in the Army and we went through a unique set of experiences that nobody can really relate to.

"A large mass of people really don't understand the sacrifice that they volunteered for, and then to compound that with being severely injured ... there are so many things separating them from the general public, and now they're trying to get back into a normal life. It's a tremendous challenge for a person who doesn't even have an injury or a psychological issue such as myself. I came back very fortunate to have all my fingers and toes in working order."

The six charities cover a broad scope from adapting homes for injured vets to assisting the children of military members slain in action to services for families of the fallen, educational and emergency assistance, and the meeting of specialized needs. The proceeds will be distributed among the six charities. After soliciting volunteers following Wednesday's practice, Whitt received 14 commitments from the Owls, a healthy number for a Sunday morning.

As for Whitt, he is optimistic that his involvement will develop into an annual occurrence. The cause is noble and close to his heart, and his volunteering for duty comes as second nature.

"I hope I can be an active part in this cause," Whitt said. "Whatever I can do to get more participation I'll do, and to get the word out about the organization."

For additional information, contact Dayna Gurley at 281-693-4653 ext. 218, and visit Birdies for the Brave.

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Here, here. The timing of your article is particularly apt given the tragic events of yesterday. Keep up the good work.

BTW, I hope you will bring back the in-game blog tomorrow. I will promise not to be too negative, sarcastic, facetious or even upset, but will just be a happy little alumni fuzzball for the powers that be.

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