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4 Vets To Receive Custom Golf Clubs At Transitions Championship At Innisbrook Today

Posted Mar 13, 2012 by Howard Altman

Updated Mar 13, 2012 at 01:58 PM

It’s been a long, long time since I played golf.

I used to enjoy smacking the ball around and I was good enough to break 80.

On the front nine.

Golf fans probably already know about the Transitions Championship at the Innisbrook Resort off of U.S. 19 in Palm Harbor. But they may not know that this afternoon, four wounded veterans are being fitted for golf clubs.

Birdies for the Brave, the PGA Tour, and Callaway Golf have teamed up to custom fit military veterans for new Callaway clubs on the range at 12 PGA Tour events this season.

This week’s fittings will take place around 3 p.m. on the driving range at the Transitions Championship Innisbrook Resort. Callaway’s tour trailer technicians—the same guys who fit the likes of Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els for clubs—will administer the club fittings and Callaway will subsequently be gifting sets of clubs to the three wounded warriors.

I’m stuck in the office on this lovely day, but I wanted to give you an idea of who will be getting the golf clubs, from bios provided by three of the vets and in one case from the Ride 2 Recover website.

*Matthew Bilancia served in the United States Air Force as an Aerospace Propulsions Journeyman from March 2000 - May 2004 after graduating from Pequannock Township High School in 1998. 

He served at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson Arizona from August 2000 – May 2004. In July of 2002 he was rear-ended by a car while on his motorcycle when he was heading back to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. After he was Medically Discharged from the Air Force he started fulfilling the American Dream of being a business owner, and opened his own mortgage company in June of 2005.

He built a very successful business and a strong reputation in the Tucson Community based on the Air Forces core values he learned while in the service. Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do. In 2008 Matt had a medical relapse from injures he sustained on active duty that caused him to close down his businesses and move to the Washington DC area and focus on his health.

In November 2010 he was the first person in his family to complete a college education and graduate from the University of Phoenix with a Bachelors Degree in Business Management. Since early 2009 he has been an inspiration to many Wounded Warriors and Disabled Veterans by overcoming life’s challenges during his rehabilitation and under going a total of 30 surgeries since his injury.

Today he has been going back to school learning how to create video documentaries of our Nations Hero’s and Promotional Videos for Non-Profit organizations that support those Wounded Warriors. He looks for the support from us, the people of the United States to help him continue his dream of making Moving Warriors Media successful in telling and showing the world what Wounded Warriors and Disabled Veterans can do, and not what they can’t do.

*Kyle D. Margelofsky was born and raised in Wisconsin by his mother and father and older sister,

I enjoyed working on farms, playing sport, hunting and fishing. I joined the Army 03 January 2001, schools and training I have graduated from are but not limited to,  Infantry Basic Training, Advanced Individual Training, Basic Airborne School, 75th Ranger Regiment’s Indoctrination Program, Combat Lifesaver’s Course, Pre-Ranger Course, US Army Ranger School, I earned the Expert Infantry Badge, attended the Ranger Team Leader Course, Static Line Jump Master School, Primary Leadership Development Course on the Commandant’s List, I am a Nationally Registered Emergency Medical Technician-Intermediate (EMT-I), graduated as the Honor graduate of the US Army Sniper School, Graduated from Basic Non-Commissioned Officer’s course on the Commandant’s List and also had the highest PT test score, I am Basic, Advanced, Master, and Structural Breacher qualified using manual, ballistic, thermal, and explosive techniques, graduated from the DOD’s Advanced Land Navigation Course, attended numerous live tissue/tactical trauma management courses, graduated as the Honor Graduate of the Maneuver Advanced Non Commissioned Officer’s Course, and am a graduate of the US Navy’s Military Free Fall Course.

I deployed nine times with First Ranger Battalion, three times to Afghanistan and six to Iraq, I was awarded a Bronze Star with Valor, two Bronze Star Medals for meritorious service, the Purple Heart, five Army Commendation Medals, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, the Valorous Unit Award, the Army Good Conduct Medal with three clasps, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghan Campaign Medal with two stars, the Iraqi Campaign Medal with four stars, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terror Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Over Sea’s Ribbon with the numeral “2”, the Ranger Tab, the Expert Infantry Badge, The Combat Infantry Badge, Master, Senior, and Basic Parachutist badge, the Military Free Fall Badge,  Australian and German Jump Wings.

Currently I serve as the Airborne Operations NCOIC at USSOCOM where I coordinate and execute the Command’s Static Line and Military Free Fall Operations. I am a member of the Para-Commandos, USSOCOM’s demonstration parachute team. I am attending college completing the prerequisites for the Military’s Physician’s Assistant Program and I am six classes away from a Business Management degree. I am married and have two children; a 2-and-a- half year old daughter and a 1-year old son, my wife and I are expecting a third child in July 2012.

*Randy Nantz was riding for the first time since he had his leg amputated, after an EMP device ripped thru his Humvee in Iraq. Randy was burned very badly and lost his leg after a 19 month long struggle in Rehabilitation.

Randy has taken longer to recover because of nerve damage and scaring from burns that covered both legs. Although he had been struggling for 19 months, you would not know it by the attitude and excitement he had at the start of the recent Florida Challenge.

Finally, he felt like a normal person doing a normal activity. He had hope of trying out for the triathlon, but for now, completing the Florida Challenge was his goal. Randy was not sure he would be able to complete the first day, let alone the 6 days – a 350 mile ride. Well, Randy completed the ride and was with the front half of the ride. Randy’s smile was from ear to ear as he pulled into the parking lot of the hotel, with his family and volunteers cheering for him. It was simply priceless.

*LTC Stuart W. Smead

I was assigned to USCENTCOM from Aug 2001 to Apr 2005.  During that time I deployed twice to the Forward Headquarters in Qatar, in May 2003 and mid to late 2004.  During those deployments I served as the Director of the Joint Intelligence Center.  In that role, I deployed forward to Baghdad to visit my servicemen and analysts working in the different intelligence efforts there. 

At the end of conventional combat operations, and before the onset of improvised explosive device (IED), there was a significant threat of surface to air missiles (SAM) around the city.  On the flight from Qatar to Baghdad, we were shot at by a SAM and the pilot executed a combat landing.  Because of my position in the cockpit at the moment of execution, I experienced significant pain in my lower back upon landing.  I did not seek immediate relief but after the pain became unbearable, I sought medical attention from the physician supporting the CIA element where I was working. 

I redeployed back to HQ, USCENTCOM and continued normal duties.  During this time I continued to experience significant lower back pain.  Having many years in the Army I was used to a certain amount of pain.  The Army runs on Motrin.  This pain was different.  I did suffer from bone spurs from constant wear of the desert combat boots, as many soldiers experienced.  I had surgery to remove them in the Spring of 2004 so I could redeploy to the forward headquarters in Qatar later that year.  I served at the Headquarters for several weeks but the back pain became unbearable.  My commander arranged for my redeployment in December of 2005 in order for me to receive the attention I required to relieve the pain in my back.  I transferred to USSOCOM in April 2005 and began the long process of X-Rays, MRI’s, and referrals to different doctors.  I finally saw Dr. Scott Cutler, who upon reviewing my MRI’s, recommended surgery immediately.  This is annotated in his notes of 4 October 2005.

In early 2009, I began having re-occurring disabling back pain.  MRI’s showed that my lumbar region demonstrated increased degeneration; much sooner than Dr. Cutler had projected.  When examined, he had more concern about significant stenosis of the canal with cord compression at C5-6 and C6-7, which he operated on 13 May 2009.  When that region was stable, he operated on L3-L5 on 26 August 2009.  A hematoma developed requiring emergency surgery on 8 September 2009.  After weeks of extreme pain with no improvement, a granulomatous lesion was found in the epidural space at the L3-L5 level during exploratory surgery on 10 November 2009. 

Recent X-Rays and MRIs show continued degeneration of the lumbar region from L1 to S1.  Pain management and physical therapy have had only relative success due to the status of the degeneration.

Prior to deployment in 2003, I was considered to be in very good shape for my age as I regularly participated in anaerobic and aerobic activities up to six times per week in order to meet height/weight and physical requirement of my service.  I am many times less healthy now and this state is not consistent with my level of physical well-being and conditioning. 

When time permitted over my 25 year career, I enjoyed playing golf.  Most sports came very easy to me but golf has always presented such a challenge to continue mastering a stroke or a shot that you thought you had mastered prior to a long deployment or field training.  I also was always amazed at the distinct difference between where I was; the jungle or the desert, and the absolute beauty and peacefulness of a golf course.

My hope is that when I recover from my final lower back surgery at Walter Reed Medical Center where they are completing three procedures that will permanently fuse the degenerated discs, golf will be a major contributor to regaining some measure of physical wellness.  I believe that golf, particularly with custom fitted clubs, will be the perfect sport to motivate and challenge my beleaguered body and mind while giving a measure of peace after a very difficult decade of pain.

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