In appreciation for their service and sacrifice, dozens of military veterans were invited to play a round of golf set in the backdrop of Santa Clarita’s rolling hills Friday.
The free round, which also included food and fundraisers, was a part of the 7th annual “Thank a Veteran Golf Tournament,” a yearly event set up by retired teacher and avid golfer Nancy Butler.
“It’s important to recognize veterans,” said Butler on Friday. “There’s a lot of different people doing different events that recognize them, but this is a day just dedicated to them, where they get to be with other veterans where they get to be playing a game that they love, where they get to socialize afterwards and eat.”
Butler said she created the event seven years ago because she wanted to honor the veterans in her family, with her brother having served in Vietnam and her father and two uncles having served in World War II and the Korean War.
More than 140 golfers signed up for the event Friday, with more than 110 of them being veterans. While the veterans are not asked to pay for anything during the day, even receiving drinks and snacks along the way throughout the day, the non-veterans pay a set fee, Butler said.
Other individuals and local businesses donated goods and services for a silent auction and raffle to raise money for various veteran-based organizations. Laker Girls and Los Angeles Rams cheerleaders were also in attendance, taking pictures with the veterans and handing out signatures.
The event kicked up with a Marine color guard presenting the flags, along with a barbershop quartet singing the songs of each branch of the military.
“The proceeds,” said Butler, “we donate to another veteran organization. Or last year, we paid for the urn for one of our World War II veterans that had passed away. So it all goes to something in the community with one of the veterans projects.”
Bill Gilmore, an Army veteran who served from 1966 to 1968, said it was important for him to come out and support other veterans because many were not as lucky as he was to still have his health.
“There’s a lot of vets that need help in contrast to everybody … these guys went out and got shot or what have you,” said Gilmore. “These guys need our support so that when they come home they feel like somebody appreciates that you did something.”
A mother of a veteran who’s also a current first responder helicopter pilot, Helen Blackwood, said she was playing in honor of her son who was supposed to play with her until he got called into work because of the brush fire in Santa Paula.
“(I’m here) because it’s these guys that have saved us,” said Blackwood. “They’re why we’re able to play golf, because these guys went off to fight for us.”
Butler said she once again plans to host the event next year and hopes to see more veterans come out and enjoy their free day of golf.