Wounded warriors treated to golf weekend by Bush

Posted Friday, Sep. 27, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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While answering a work email on his cellphone as he waited on the No. 7 tee Thursday morning, Nick Bradley got busted.

By President George W. Bush.

Bush, who sponsors a golf tournament for wounded veterans, was quick to admonish Bradley for violating one of the unwritten rules of golf.

“Did you see that?” Bradley said with a sheepish grin. “He asked why in the hell I was on the Internet? I should have told him I was looking for online golf lessons.”

It was just one example of the lighthearted mood at the third Warrior Open, where 24 post 9-11 veterans were taking part in a three-day tournament put on by the George W. Bush Institute at Las Colinas Country Club. This year’s tournament included a pro-am that featured local pros such as Lee Trevino, Justin Leonard and J.J. Henry.

For Bradley, 30, it was the third consecutive year to participate; he finished in the top 5 each of the first two years.

“I wait for this event all year,” Bradley said. “It’s all I talk about. My girlfriend is sick of hearing me talk about it.”

Golf is his physical therapy

Bradley, who met his girlfriend at the tournament two years ago, said golf has been a lifeline in his recovery from injuries he sustained five years ago in Afghanistan.

The 30-year-old Haslet resident has endured 16 surgeries since his vehicle was struck by an anti-tank mine in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 3, 2008.

He needed reconstructive surgeries that included putting screws in his face, right arm, right hand, hip and knee. His right arm was permanently broken after the weakened bone was snapped during physical therapy, he said.

But not even a broken arm can stop Bradley from playing golf.

“I guess it’s just perseverance,” Bradley said. “Golf was really my physical therapy.”

Bradley first deployed to Balad Air Force Base, Iraq, where he served with the Air Force’s 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces and flew more than 200 surveillance missions for troops. He came back to the U.S. and completed several training courses over the next few years.

In April 2008, he was sent to Camp Eggers in Kabul, where the staff sergeant served on a personal security detail with the 96th Security Forces Squadron.

On Aug. 3, he was about to have his first day off in about two months when he and Texas Army National Guard Sgt. Jaime “Gonzo” Gonzalez of Austin were sent out in a Toyota Land Cruiser as part of the security detail. They were in the last vehicle in the convoy.

As Bradley’s vehicle reached a bridge, two Taliban fighters in a nearby village remotely detonated a 20-pound anti-tank IED under the vehicle.

‘It’s really special’

Bradley retired from the Air Force in 2009 and is currently a student at the University of North Texas in Denton, where he is a junior, majoring in political science.

His golf game has suffered since he started working at Howell Instruments in Fort Worth, where he would like to stay long-term.

“I used to play golf five or six times a week,” Bradley said. “But lately it’s been more like once a week. I guess that’s what happens when you rejoin the real world.”

Despite his struggles on the first few holes, Bradley remained confident he could get back in the Top 5 this year. Thursday’s pro-am won’t count toward the final results, so Bradley was getting a chance to get his game back together.

“I’m pretty competitive,” Bradley said. “I still feel I can play well in this thing.”

But Bradley said the camaraderie was as important as the competition.

“You get to see old friends you haven’t seen since last year and you get to meet others who understand what you’ve been through,” Bradley said. “It’s really special.”

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698 Twitter: @fwhanna

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Warriors on the golf course

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