The Real Heroes & Warriors

How many times have you watched a sporting event and  heard the color commentator refer to a player as a “Real Warrior?” or they refer to athletes as Heroes. They’re playing a game for millions of dollars and most athletes have lost sight of what’s important.  How else do you explain that an athlete is willing to sit out an entire season because he is being “disrespected”  because they’re aren’t enough zeros in their paycheck?

I was in a charity golf tournament this past Monday at the El Camino Country Club in Oceanside, CA. The charity is the Wounded Warrior Project and I spent the day amongst real Warriors and heroes who aren’t in it for the Big Bucks.

I met Noreen, wife of a retired serviceman herself, who just got back from deployment at Guantanamo Bay where she was a leader amongst the MP’s. Did I mention she’s only about 5′ tall and weighs around 100 pounds? Afraid? Scared? Not this girl. Hero? You bet. Warrior? All day everyday. Her husband Andy Tabar is a great guy and a regular at the Cigar Grotto.

I met men and women who have voluntarily deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq because they believe it’s their duty. They leave the comforts of their home and surroundings for the privilege of spending the next year in a desert that gets hot and dusty. I’ve talked to plenty Marines who tell of the camel spiders.

Some of the Marines present had gone back to the Mid East 9 times!! You want to know why? Because they love the freedom that we enjoy and sometimes take for granted. This isn’t a part time job for these heroes, it’s their career and they carry that pride out there for all to see.

Don’t be mistaken by their sometime gruff exterior; these are men and women who feel the pain each time one of their own doesn’t come home. They feel the pain when a comrade comes home with appendages missing. These are the Marines that I’m getting to know.

One of the Marines was telling about how each and every month he received a package from Gregg & Dee Dee Engels, owners of the Cigar Grotto in Oceanside. He had built a humidor out of an ammo container and when he received his monthly cigars from Gregg he rolled them out for all of his comrades to share in a brief moment of surcease. He could have kept them to himself but not Russ. He wanted to share with his buddies.

I am now wearing a Wounded Warrior Project wristband which I will do until next year’s tournament and I get to pay a daily fee for the privilege of getting to wear it.  I consider it a privilege to do something for these wonderful men and women. I’m following the lead of Mike O’Neal & Andy Tabar who have both worn the wristband the past two years. Thanks for setting a great example, Guys.

Let’s take a minute to recognize some folks who work their behinds off making sure that everyone has a great time and more importantly that money is raised for the Project. First and foremost Gregg and Dee Dee Engels the owners of the Cigar Grotto located at 220 North Coast Highway in Oceanside, 1 block north of Mission. They are incredibly giving people and they would do anything for the Marines, their family which just grew by one with the addition of grandson Giovanni. Just go into the shop sometime, pick out a great cigar from the humidor, grab a seat on the leather couches and start looking around at the walls. There aren’t too many bare spots. There’s the typical family phones, Buffalo Sabres photos because they’s Sabres fans; but what struck a chord in me was the number of flags that have flown over a platoons tent somewhere in the Middle East. The flags are given to Gregg & Dee Dee in appreciation for everything that they do. He was given another one at the dinner Monday night and he was so choked up that when asked to say a few words, he simply bowed his head and said “I can’t.” Marines send back photos of them and their buddies in the desert all smoking a cigar that somehow got to them from the Grotto. Since I separated from my wife I have spent many an hour talking to both Gregg and Dee Dee about life and I thank them for including me to some of their family events.

No charity event could happen without a Title Sponsor. For the past three years Christian Eiroa of Camacho Cigars has given to this tournament without question. His support of our military is second to none without asking for anything in return. He’s provided us with cigars, cigar cutters, golf hats,  golf towels all while taking a behind the scenes role. As Dee Dee said to me, “When I was putting together our first Wounded Warrior tournament Christian stepped up and asked one question.” What can I do to help?”

Rookies Sports Bar is owned by Steve and is a great supporter of the Golf Tournament. Steve has the greatest staff in addition to 90 something tv’s to watch your favorite game. They’re located at 2216 S El Camino Real, Oceanside. Most of the volunteers at the Tournament are Rookies employees. They’re friendly & adorable and it was awesome to see the turnout to help the tournament become a success.

Jason Boyer, photographer extradorinaire and owner of Boyer Photography donated his time to take photos of the tournament. Jason is talented, very friendly and just became a father for the 3rd or 4th time. Thanks for your time and congratulations!  Boyer Photography / tel: (877) 496-3716 /email: /

Support these businesses because they’re supporting YOUR Marines. Please come out next year and if you see me coming towards you in June, July, & August know that I’m going to be asking for your support to the men and women who make tremendous sacrifices for each of us everyday.

Semper Fidelis
Latin For “Always Faithful”

Post Script 10/18/10: After all the bills were paid, we showed a profit of $20,000 and a check was present to Wounded Warrior Project.