Branson group aids veterans who sacrificed bodies but want to do more

BRANSON, Mo. -- The Branson Veterans Events and Reunions organization is a group that honors war veterans by putting together various activities for those who've served our country.  Recently, they invited another veterans service organization from Florida to play golf at Holiday Hills.  That group of war heroes serves a special need.

"It's veterans who want to help other veterans," said Doc Milligan, vice-president of Amputee Veterans of America Support Team.

The organization, abbreviated as AVAST, had members playing golf at Branson's Holiday Hills recently.  But it was much more than just a game.  It was a mission to provide motivation and inspiration to those who suffered traumatic war injuries.

"They think life's over, but it's not," AVAST member Herb Wyman said.  "You're alive. Make the best of it."

"It really helps when you have somebody who knows what you're going through," said Milligan.

"This organization," said Arlen Lipper, president of Branson Veteran Events and Reunions, "should be in every VA hospital and clinic in the country.  What they're doing is showing young men and women that they can play golf and do other things. There's someone there to help them."

Rudy Salas, president of AVAST, lost his leg in a land mine explosion in Vietnam.

"At the hospital, you're surrounded by your guys, a lot of amputees that are just like you," Salas said.  "But you get home, you're the only one.  I wanted to go back to the hospital.  But you’ve got to live your life and fit back into society somehow."

Frankie Torres, an Iraqi war veteran, suffered a severe brain injury.

"I saw those amputees playing golf and I was, like, ‘If they can do it, why not me?’  They have helped me become a part of society again and not hurt anybody and not get angry,” said Torres.

"Every Friday, our VA hospital brings out five to 25 vets in active service who are going through rehab and they don't think they can do anything," Milligan said.  "We teach them to play golf.  And, the first time they hit that ball, the look on their face is priceless."

"The thing that really touched my heart the most was a young man who had over 70 percent of his body burned," Lipper said.  "He was a double amputee, totally blind and had over 70 surgeries.  And he was playing golf! 

“So many of these guys get depressed because they just can't handle their injuries and we have so many that are committing suicide.  But this organization shows people that they can do things that they may not think they can do."

The folks in Branson are trying to raise money to buy a special golf cart that helps paralyzed golfers make shots while sitting in the cart.  If you'd like to help, you can call (417) 230-2278 or contact them on the web.