Did you ever wonder “what if?” when it comes to timing? You know, if I had been just a little earlier arriving I could have witnessed this? Or if I had just been a little later my “luck” might have changed?
You don’t have to search too far to find dozens of quotes about “everything happening for a reason” – we’ve all seen it at some point. The world just knits together the way it does sometimes.
I had such an occasion just the other day.
For those that are unaware, we still hand deliver the print edition of our magazines. Yes, there are certainly more efficient ways to do shipping but it allows us to get out into the community on a regular basis, see golf courses, talk to people, and often gather leads for news and stories. We’ve done it that way since 1996.
On Sunday I was following my normal delivery route through the Bay of Quinte Region of Ontario, west to Brighton and then back through the area all the way to Napanee, etc. As always, my path brings me to Canadian Forces Base Trenton. It’s a bit of a nostalgia stop for me, my dad was a long-time member of the Navy and Air Force and I was born in Trenton while he served there. Those times growing up on military bases shaped my life and perspective on many things so as I drive through the area, it is always of special interest.
Sunday was no different.
A few years back a tribute to the men and women who sacrificed their lives during the conflict in Afghanistan was created not far from the airport at C.F.B Trenton. The largest air base in Canada also happens to be the place where the planes carrying soldiers killed in action land when they are brought home.
As a result, the Afghanistan Repatriation Memorial was created on a swath of land next to the Bay of Quinte to honour them.
In my travels I had noted the entrance sign multiple times but had yet to stop at the Memorial.
Like many who have tied to the military community, I pay close attention to the casualty reports from any conflicts our soldiers are involved. Military service is often generational. So it’s not uncommon to know the friends and family of a solider who has been wounded or killed, or have met them personally.
On this day, for no particular reason, I chose to take some time and visit the Memorial, and pay tribute to all, including Captain Matt Dawe, who I met through his father, a life-long soldier himself. We got to know each other, to no surprise, through golf.
As I drove down the short road to the Memorial I spotted two young men, who I guessed to be young service men, based on their haircuts and proximity to the base (there is a barracks close by). They had sets of golf clubs out and were using a small plot of land behind a baseball diamond near the road to work on their games.
On my way back from the Memorial I slowed to watch them trying to work on their swings. As a PGA professional I was tempted to take some time and maybe provide a couple tips but I figured that might seem absurd that here they were working on their games when a golf pro just happened to drive by. Instead I hopped out and introduced myself in the capacity of a golf industry member and tossed them a couple promotional hats, wishing them luck in their efforts to enjoy the game.
It took ten extra minutes out of my day but felt like the right thing to do. I had no idea it might affect the timing of my journey in other ways.
A couple hours later I found myself on a military base again, this one closer to home, at C.F.B. Kingston.
As a seventeen-years-old I first became a member at the Garrison Golf & Curling Club on that base. Eventually, I worked there. Since then I have been a member on and off, but always haunt the place for practice. There are many familiar faces there, both civilian and military, and it seems to keep me connected to my past as a “base brat”.
On this day as I rounded the corner of the pro shop with a bundle of magazines I spotted a familiar face by the putting green, Garrison member Tom Martineau.
Now retired from the military, Tom’s story is a harrowing one. It’s too long to recap here but the basics are that he was gravely wounded by a sniper’s bullet in 1994 while serving in Bosnia. The resulting horrific injuries robbed the avid athlete of many things, including his ability to walk for many years. He fought hard to regain it and has returned to athletics through the Invictus Games (golf and wheelchair basketball) and will play in the Golf Ontario Disability Golf Championship later this month. His story is an inspiring one for me; it defies what most humans would be capable of.
Tom also happens to be part of the group behind the newly formed not-for-profit Emeritus Tour ( www.emeritusgolf.ca), the first cross-nation golf tour created for Canadian Armed Forces personnel and first responders, both active and veterans.
After our normal greeting and small talk about golf in general Tom shared with me that this Saturday (August 17, 2019) the tour is running their first fundraising tournament at the Garrison Golf & Curling Club. Within a short time I committed to playing in the event and it set me on a mission to write this, knowing the world must have been brewing something up for me earlier in the day.
Had I not decided to go to the Afghanistan Repatriation Memorial I would have arrived at Garrison early, missed Tom, and the chance to support those who serve.
I’m glad it worked out.
And you can help too.