Blind WWII veteran takes to the green

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Photo courtesy of VA

Army veteran, DAV life member returns to the 25th annual National Disabled Veterans TEE Tournament in Iowa

During World War II, Ray Shackelford was serving at the Fort Read/Waller Army Airfield headquarters in Trinidad.

The coast of the Caribbean nation, then a British colony, was patrolled by a large number of Nazi U-Boats. The airfield was activated in 1941 in order to counter this German threat, as well as establish another facility to transport aircraft to the African and European theaters of war.

Eight decades later, Shackelford is looking forward to enjoying the company of fellow veterans at the 25th National Disabled Veterans TEE Tournament in Iowa.

In 2010, Shackelford began to lose his vision. The DAV life member was at the Central Blind Rehabilitation Center at the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital five years later when an enthusiastic staff member told him that he had to attend the TEE Tournament. The former soldier followed orders and has been returning to the annual DAV and VA co-hosted event ever since.

Shackelford was a golfer before he lost his vision, but never thought he would be able to return to the green.

“I guess it’s hard to break old habits,” joked Shackelford, who said he appreciates everyone that comes together in order to make the event possible.

More than 55 sponsors and contributors have supported the event financially or with in-kind donations, and more than 600 people have signed up to volunteer at the silver anniversary TEE Tournament.

“It’s mind-boggling that all this support is happening, that everyone cares that much for us,” said Shackelford.

While he enjoys his time on the course, his favorite part of the event is the camaraderie experienced among fellow veterans.

“Once you have been in the service and are a veteran—I don’t care where—Iraq, Korea—and everywhere in between—we all have something in common. It’s special being with them,” explained Shackelford, who also enjoys time communing with other World War II veteran participants.

“It is hard to describe…it just gets to you.”

He encourages ill, injured or visually impaired veterans of all eras to try out events like the TEE Tournament.

“Adaptive sports is the best thing that will happen to you,” said Shackelford. “You’ll find out you can do things you never thought you could.”

On his fourth return to the TEE Tournament, he has one main focus.

“I’m at the age now where there’s not too many goals left that I haven’t attained yet, but I want to continue to make new friends and enjoy time with old friends,” said the 91-year-old. “I want to see this event keep going for all the others.

“I’m a great advocate for the TEE Tournament because I know what it can mean for veterans.”