A Texas State student is therapeutically healing his war wounds through golf with a special guest — George W. Bush.
John Faulkenberry, exercise and sports science senior, participated in the Warrior Open golf tournament Oct. 10 and 11. The 36-hole event was held at the Las Colinas Country Club near Dallas.
Faulkenberry, U.S. Army Sergeant First Class, was wounded July 27, 2007 when his unit was ambushed by enemy gunfire in Afghanistan. He then underwent several months of surgeries and currently sports a prosthetic leg after a below-the-knee amputation. He began rehabilitation therapy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and is currently continuing recovery at the Brooke Army Medical Center.
Faulkenberry was one of 20 wounded soldiers and veterans selected from across the nation to compete in the contest. The Bush Center organized the tournament for the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Retired U.S. Army Corporal Chad Pfeifer was named the winner of the competition.
Faulkenberry said approximately 170 soldiers and veterans with United States Golf Association-certified handicaps sent in applications to be considered for the event. He applied about six months in advance for the contest. Faulkenberry said he was “pretty excited” to have received a call from Bush’s office welcoming him to attend a dinner with a formal invite to participate in the tournament.
“The coolest thing was getting to meet the president,” he said. “It’s not every day that you get to thank him for his service and everything he has done for me. I’m grateful to have met him.”
Faulkenberry said he was originally nervous while swinging the golf club on camera.
“It took like three holes to stop shaking,” He said. “It was cool for them to go out of their way to go to all that trouble to make it such a real tournament. I’ve never played in an event like that before and it was a big experience.”
Bob Pankey, professor in the department of health and human performance, said Faulkenberry is taking his sports sociology class and took his biomechanics class last semester. He said Faulkenberry originally sat in the back of class and was “very quiet and unassuming.”
Pankey said he began to open up to Faulkenberry and the two have gotten to know each other by discussing topics such as biomechanics, prosthetics and running.
“He’s very upbeat,” Pankey said. “I think he’s the type of person that looks at his disability as not being disabled, but being able. He’s got a good shot at being at the top of his field in exercise and sports science if he so chooses to go that direction.”
Faulkenberry said he is currently still on active duty in the army and will receive retirement orders in the next few months. He expects to graduate with his bachelor’s degree in May and has a fear of the “unknown” about the transition out of military life.
David Fink, former president of the Veteran’s Student Alliance on campus, said it is a “difficult scenario” to move from military life to college classes. He said the university welcomes soldiers and veterans to make the passage easier.
Fink said golf offers a “really unique” experience for military individuals undergoing rehabilitation efforts.
Faulkenberry said he plans on looking into getting a job at a non-profit organization to help soldiers rehabilitate through golf just as he did. Golf is a common recovery practice for physical therapy patients because it works on core-strength and balance.
Faulkenberry said getting injured made him more appreciative of what he has.
“It’s pretty scary because it changed my life plan for me and my family,” He said. “Now, I’m 28 and retiring and I still have to provide for my family and six-month-old daughter.”