Over 250 disabled veterans come to Iowa for golf tournament - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Over 250 disabled veterans come to Iowa for golf tournament

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) -

An event that started 24 years ago with 34 visually-disabled veterans has grown to more than 250 veterans, all who deal with various life-changing disabilities.

The 24th annual National Disabled Veterans TEE Tournament kicked off Monday night with opening ceremonies, where they welcomed 264 disabled veterans to the four-day event. Veterans came in from all over the country for the event. It's hosted by the Iowa City VA Medical Medical Center, with the help of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and the Disabled American Veterans organization.

"Keeping Veterans engaged so they don't recluse themselves from society, and anything we can do to open a door with an event like this, is a positive for everyone,"Kirt Sickels, National Disable Veterans TEE Tournament Director, said.

The event shows veterans that their life-changing disabilities don't define them, that they're still capable of living an active and healthy life.

"Over the years, I've learned 'okay, so you gotta do it a little differently, but you can still do it.' There's life after disabilities," Michael Potter, a disabled Navy Veteran said. Potter suffered from seizures, leading to an honorable medical discharge. The condition left him legally blind.

Learning how to do things differently is something David Riley of the Coast Guard had to do, too.  A bacterial infection caused Riley to lose his legs and arms.

"Last year was the first time I ever picked up a club, so I'm back this year to see if I can do a little bit better," Riley said.

The event isn't just for physical disabilities. Many veterans suffer from mental side effects from their time serving our country.

"My injuries are real visible, but a lot of the invisible wounds out there are not very visible. You can't see them just off the face. I would say, to those vets, that there's a lot of value in these events," Riley said.

Largely, the event is about comradery, too. 

"You've got people to talk about that actually do experience the same thing you do, day in and day out," Potter said.

Potter, originally from Illinois, has attended the event for 21 years. It's where he says he met his better-half and that she was working as a volunteer, and he has since moved to Coralville.

"I've watched this literally change people's lives. They come in with 'I don't know, I can't do this' and, when they leave, they say 'you know what? I can do this, what else can I do?'" Potter said.

On Tuesday, veterans will take to the courses to practice and learn. Sickels said over 80 of the veterans this year are first-year attendees. He said a small portion of them haven't played golf before.  Veterans will also be exposed to other activities during the four-day event. Some activities include horseback riding, kayaking, and bowling.

On Thursday, the tournament will take place. Veterans will be spread across six golf courses in the Iowa City-area to compete. Roughly 400 volunteers help with the event.

More information about the event can be found here.

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