By Debbie Gregory.
The Iowa City VA Medical Center, with support from community volunteers, hosted the National Veterans TEE Tournament. TEE is an acronym standing for Training, Exposure and Experience. The annual event, now in its 9th year, provides legally blind and eligible Disabled Veterans an opportunity to develop new skills and strengthen their self-esteem through adaptive golf and bowling events.
The first tournament was held in June, 1994, at Nauvoo, Illinois’ Great River Bend Golf Course. The first tournament was attended by 36 legally blind Veterans from six Midwestern states. The event was moved to the Iowa City area in 1995, and has been held there ever since. The event has expanded to include not only Veterans who are legally blind, but also amputees, those who use wheelchairs, and Veterans with other disabilities.
The independence of playing an individual sport such as golf appealed to Air Force Veteran Jack Rupert, who despite being deemed legally blind in 2009, maintains a very active lifestyle that includes playing golf, wood working and leather working.
“Golf gives people a great sense of accomplishment and sense of self,” said Rupert. “I’ve played golf off and on for 25 years.” The Minnesota native continued. “Let me tell you something, it’s wonderful.”
Functions like the TEE tournament are an inspiration for Wounded & Disabled Veterans, who get a chance to meet a number of other Veterans overcoming a wide range of medical conditions. “Events like this provide a lot of inspiration. To see other Veterans who are worse off than I am competing and being active makes me figure if they can do it, then I can do it,” Rupert said.
The National Veterans TEE Tournament sprang to life as the brainchild of several employees of the Iowa City Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center, along with two visually impaired Veterans from Iowa, who were attending the 1993 National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic. Participation in the tournament is open to U.S. military Veterans with visual impairments, amputations, traumatic brain injuries, multiple sclerosis, neuromuscular conditions, neurological conditions and spinal cord injuries. The participants receive care at VA medical facilities across the nation, and many use the VA’s comprehensive visual impairment services.
The VA is a health care leader in rehabilitation, with a commitment to serve all Veterans, men and women, past and present. The Tournament is hosted by the Iowa City VA Health Care System, with sponsorship support provided by Help Hospitalized Veterans, Veterans Canteen Service and many other organizations.