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Skills and Self Esteem are Trophies in Vet TEE Tournament

Woman throwing a horseshoe

Veteran Carole Rowland tries for a ringer.

Blind Army Veteran of the Vietnam Era
A Proud Founder of the TEE Tournament

man golfing

Eldon Miller, 58 of Kolona, Iowa, Army Veteran of the Vietnam Era

Eldon Miller has not only participated in the National Veterans TEE Tournament every year since its inception, he helped create it.

Miller grew up on a farm and has always loved the outdoors. After he was injured during a training accident in July 1974, he was left legally blind and searching for new ways to stay active.

It wasn’t until years later that he heard about the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, an annual rehabilitation event held in Colorado each year for Veterans with a variety of disabilities. He has participated in every year since the first Clinic in 1987.

This sparked Miller’s inspiration to create an event now known as the National Veterans TEE Tournament, which he also attends every year.

Being one of the four founders of this annual program, Miller has had the pleasure of watching it grow over the years into the national event it has become today, with Veterans attending from across the United States.

This event allows Miller and other Veterans with disabilities to share each other’s company and exchange ideas about how to deal with the daily challenges they face.

Before this event, Miller never considered himself a golfer, but now he practices throughout the year to maintain his skills and improve his game. He enjoys everything about the TEE Tournament and believes that the more people who attend, the better it will become.

“Don’t ever say you can’t do something unless you try first,” said Miller.

TEE stands for Training, Exposure and Experience.

Man paddling a kayak

A participant in the National Veterans TEE Tournament maneuvers his kayak.

This week, 238 Veterans will tee it up, toss a bowling ball or a horseshoe, and maybe paddle a kayak in the annual National Veterans TEE Tournament.

The week of activity is a rehabilitation program for Veterans who are legally blind, amputees, those who use wheelchairs, or have other disabilities.

The National Veterans TEE Tournament uses a therapeutic format to promote rehabilitation, fellowship and camaraderie among its participants.

The tournament takes place September 12-15 in Iowa City.

Participation is open to U.S. military Veterans with visual impairments, amputations, traumatic brain injuries, psychological trauma, certain neurological conditions, spinal cord injuries and other disabilities, who receive care in any Department of Veterans Affairs health care facility.

The event provides these Veterans an opportunity to participate in a therapeutic golfing event along with other activities such as horseshoes, bowling and kayaking. By participating, Veterans are able to develop new skills and strengthen their self-esteem.

The event provides eligible Veterans with an opportunity to participate in therapeutic adaptive sporting activities which demonstrate that having a visual or physical disability need not be an obstacle to an active, rewarding life.

“Don’t ever say you can’t do something unless you try first.”

— Eldon Miller, co-founder of the National TEE Tournament

The event is sponsored by VA and Help Hospitalized Veterans, and hosted by the Iowa City VA Medical Center, with support from more than 375 VA and community volunteers. Help Hospitalized Veterans is a national, non-profit organization established for the purpose of distributing therapeutic arts & crafts kits, free of charge, to patients receiving care at Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers, state nursing homes for Veterans and military hospitals.

The National Veterans TEE Tournament sprang to life as the brainchild of several employees of the Iowa City VA Medical Center, along with two visually impaired veterans from Iowa who were attending the 1993 National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.

These visionaries got together and named the new event, “The TEE Tournament,” an acronym standing for Training, Exposure and Experience.

The first Tournament was held in June 1994 in Nauvoo, Illinois, at the Great River Bend Golf Course. At this inaugural event, there were 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. Last year, 175 Veterans participated.

The Department of Veterans Affairs endorsed this event in 2008 and it became one of VA’s six national rehabilitation programs for Veterans.

For Veterans from coast to coast, this event continues to grow in both level of involvement and popularity each year.