For the past several years, my main duty during Memorial Day weekend has consisted of putting out the American flag, the one that once flew over the nation’s capitol.
Back in the day, I’d try to make it to a Memorial Day parade, but the only parade in McClellanville is the annual hydrangea parade. Well, maybe you have to be there.
This year was different.
An invitation to a golf tournament at Heritage Club gave me a chance to combine golf and patriotism.
The invite came from Roger Pilcher, past president of the Grand Strand Chapter of the Military Officers of America Association (MOAA).
The local chapter has more than 150 members, all of them distinguished by their service to the country.
Pilcher, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel, invited me as a kind of celebrity guest, along with another media guy, an old friend named Ed Piotrowski of WPDE-TV. Piotrowski certainly belonged there; he is a self-described military brat whose Marine Corps father rose to a high enlisted rank.
Ed and I appeared at several celebrity events before my retirement, though as a TV star he was the only one people recognized. So it goes.
On this day, Thursday, it was like old times – except that I never even saw Piotrowski. There were just too many people who showed up to support the MOAA.
As John Short, the event coordinator, told me in an email: “We have 144 players plus 1. You’re the one.”
The real celebrity and true American hero was Clebe McClary III, a decorated Marine who was severely wounded in Vietnam in 1968.
Clebe spent two and a half years in the hospital and underwent 34 major surgeries and hours of physical therapy. He now serves as a public speaker who has told his story of courage, faith and determination to gatherings throughout the world.
After being told he’d never walk again, he’s recovered enough to run marathons. Wow.
I had the pleasure of meeting Clebe, and I can tell you he is full of life and has a handshake grip like a vice. Wow.
I was expecting to play with him as a fifth member of a foursome – the “plus 1,” you know – but when one group came up a player short I was moved to make up a foursome.
No problem. It was a long day, good company, so-so golf and very tiring. The cause, of course, made it all worthwhile.
The captain’s choice event raised money for several MOAA projects, not the least of which is providing scholarship money to South Carolina students.
The highlight for me came at the beginning of the tournament. A color guard showed up for the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a bugler playing a mournful Taps for all those who made – and still are making – the ultimate sacrifice.
It was a moving reminder of what this weekend is all about.
Contact Bob Bestler at firstname.lastname@example.org.