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Golfers tee up to help Wounded Warriors

James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - Samuel H. Johnson tees off of number 1 for the start of the Wounded Warrior Project's eighth annual golf outing on Monday, September 16, at the Diamond Run Golf Club in Ohio Township. Johnson is a retired Colonel in the U.S. Army. He held many roles during a long military career, including Director for Strategic Communications at Combined Forces Command – Afghanistan in Kabul in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. Wounded Warrior Project’s 19 programs and services are uniquely structured to nurture the mind and body, and encourage economic empowerment and engagement. Since 2003, WWP has opened 13 regional offices across the country and in Germany to better serve Wounded Warriors and their families at their time of need. In November 2012, WWP opened its Pittsburgh office to continue its commitment to serving injured service members nationwide.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review</em></div>Samuel H. Johnson tees off of number 1 for the start of the Wounded Warrior Project's eighth annual golf outing on Monday, September 16, at the Diamond Run Golf Club in Ohio Township. Johnson is a retired Colonel in the U.S. Army. He held many roles during a long military career, including Director for Strategic Communications at Combined Forces Command – Afghanistan in Kabul in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. Wounded Warrior Project’s 19 programs and services are uniquely structured to nurture the mind and body, and encourage economic empowerment and engagement. Since 2003, WWP has opened 13 regional offices across the country and in Germany to better serve Wounded Warriors and their families at their time of need. In November 2012, WWP opened its Pittsburgh office to continue its commitment to serving injured service members nationwide.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - Wounded Warior's Mike Heller (right) and Tim Martin watch Shelia Phillips, from event sponsor GNC tee-off on number 1 for the Wounded Warrior Project's eighth annual golf outing on Monday, September 16, at the Diamond Run Golf Club in Ohio Township. Wounded Warrior Project’s 19 programs and services are uniquely structured to nurture the mind and body, and encourage economic empowerment and engagement. Since 2003, WWP has opened 13 regional offices across the country and in Germany to better serve Wounded Warriors and their families at their time of need. In November 2012, WWP opened its Pittsburgh office to continue its commitment to serving injured service members nationwide.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review</em></div>Wounded Warior's Mike Heller (right) and Tim Martin watch Shelia Phillips, from event sponsor GNC tee-off on number 1 for the Wounded Warrior Project's eighth annual golf outing on Monday, September 16, at the Diamond Run Golf Club in Ohio Township. Wounded Warrior Project’s 19 programs and services are uniquely structured to nurture the mind and body, and encourage economic empowerment and engagement. Since 2003, WWP has opened 13 regional offices across the country and in Germany to better serve Wounded Warriors and their families at their time of need. In November 2012, WWP opened its Pittsburgh office to continue its commitment to serving injured service members nationwide.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - Almost 150 golfers cue up in their carts for the start of the Wounded Warrior Project's eighth annual golf outing on Monday, September 16, at the Diamond Run Golf Club in Ohio Township. Wounded Warrior Project’s 19 programs and services are uniquely structured to nurture the mind and body, and encourage economic empowerment and engagement. Since 2003, WWP has opened 13 regional offices across the country and in Germany to better serve Wounded Warriors and their families at their time of need. In November 2012, WWP opened its Pittsburgh office to continue its commitment to serving injured service members nationwide.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review</em></div>Almost 150 golfers cue up in their carts for the start of the Wounded Warrior Project's eighth annual golf outing on Monday, September 16, at the Diamond Run Golf Club in Ohio Township. Wounded Warrior Project’s 19 programs and services are uniquely structured to nurture the mind and body, and encourage economic empowerment and engagement. Since 2003, WWP has opened 13 regional offices across the country and in Germany to better serve Wounded Warriors and their families at their time of need. In November 2012, WWP opened its Pittsburgh office to continue its commitment to serving injured service members nationwide.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - A few of the almost 150 golfers on hand for the start of the Wounded Warrior Project's eighth annual golf outing on Monday, September 16, head out onto the course for the start at the Diamond Run Golf Club in Ohio Township. Wounded Warrior Project’s 19 programs and services are uniquely structured to nurture the mind and body, and encourage economic empowerment and engagement. Since 2003, WWP has opened 13 regional offices across the country and in Germany to better serve Wounded Warriors and their families at their time of need. In November 2012, WWP opened its Pittsburgh office to continue its commitment to serving injured service members nationwide.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review</em></div>A few of the almost 150 golfers on hand for the start of the Wounded Warrior Project's eighth annual golf outing on Monday, September 16, head out onto the course for the start at the Diamond Run Golf Club in Ohio Township. Wounded Warrior Project’s 19 programs and services are uniquely structured to nurture the mind and body, and encourage economic empowerment and engagement. Since 2003, WWP has opened 13 regional offices across the country and in Germany to better serve Wounded Warriors and their families at their time of need. In November 2012, WWP opened its Pittsburgh office to continue its commitment to serving injured service members nationwide.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - Mike Heller takes his swing on the number 3 fairway rough at the Wounded Warrior Project's eighth annual golf outing on Monday, September 16, at the Diamond Run Golf Club in Ohio Township. Heller served in the United States Marine Corps from 1999 to 2006. Also a Sergeant, he was both a Machine gun Section Leader and a Rifle Platoon Squad Leader. Wounded Warrior Project’s 19 programs and services are uniquely structured to nurture the mind and body, and encourage economic empowerment and engagement. Since 2003, WWP has opened 13 regional offices across the country and in Germany to better serve Wounded Warriors and their families at their time of need. In November 2012, WWP opened its Pittsburgh office to continue its commitment to serving injured service members nationwide.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review</em></div>Mike Heller takes his swing on the number 3 fairway rough at the Wounded Warrior Project's eighth annual golf outing on Monday, September 16, at the Diamond Run Golf Club in Ohio Township. Heller served in the United States Marine Corps from 1999 to 2006. Also a Sergeant, he was both a Machine gun Section Leader and a Rifle Platoon Squad Leader. Wounded Warrior Project’s 19 programs and services are uniquely structured to nurture the mind and body, and encourage economic empowerment and engagement. Since 2003, WWP has opened 13 regional offices across the country and in Germany to better serve Wounded Warriors and their families at their time of need. In November 2012, WWP opened its Pittsburgh office to continue its commitment to serving injured service members nationwide.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - Shelia Phillips from event sponsor GNC grimaces as she misses her putt on the first hole under the watchful eyes of from left, Wounded Warrior Tim Martin, U.S. Army Col. Samuel Johnson-ret., Wounded Warrior Mike Heller, Phillips and Lauri Hmel also from GNC at the Wounded Warrior Project's eighth annual golf outing on Monday, September 16, at the Diamond Run Golf Club in Ohio Township. Wounded Warrior Project’s 19 programs and services are uniquely structured to nurture the mind and body, and encourage economic empowerment and engagement. Since 2003, WWP has opened 13 regional offices across the country and in Germany to better serve Wounded Warriors and their families at their time of need. In November 2012, WWP opened its Pittsburgh office to continue its commitment to serving injured service members nationwide.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review</em></div>Shelia Phillips from event sponsor GNC grimaces as she misses her putt on the first hole under the watchful eyes of from left, Wounded Warrior Tim Martin, U.S. Army Col. Samuel Johnson-ret., Wounded Warrior Mike Heller, Phillips and Lauri Hmel also from GNC at the Wounded Warrior Project's eighth annual golf outing on Monday, September 16, at the Diamond Run Golf Club in Ohio Township. Wounded Warrior Project’s 19 programs and services are uniquely structured to nurture the mind and body, and encourage economic empowerment and engagement. Since 2003, WWP has opened 13 regional offices across the country and in Germany to better serve Wounded Warriors and their families at their time of need. In November 2012, WWP opened its Pittsburgh office to continue its commitment to serving injured service members nationwide.

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Monday, Sept. 16, 2013, 3:48 p.m.
 

The rolling hills and lush landscape of Diamond Run Golf Club in Ohio Township stood in stark contrast to the dusty battleground in Iraq where a roadside bomb injured Mike Heller's back and killed a fellow Marine eight years ago.

Standing at the clubhouse Monday with the sprawling course behind him, Heller expressed gratitude for the community support and more than 100 people who participated in the eighth annual charity golf outing to benefit Wounded Warrior Project, sponsored by Downtown-based nutrition retailer GNC.

“Whether you support the war or not, they support the troops,” said Heller, 32, of Ohio Township. “This community has been incredibly supportive.”

Since its inception in 2006, the golf tournaments have raised more than $500,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project and other initiatives to help injured veterans, said Chris Long, 44, an Air Force veteran who founded the event. With money raised this year, that amount is expected to approach and possibly eclipse $600,000.

Other charitable organizations that benefit include Austin's Warrior Playroom Project through the Mario Lemieux Foundation, Darkhorse Benefits for job training for disabled veterans, and the University of Pittsburgh's Wounded Warriors and Veterans Educational Assistance Fund created to honor Blairsville native Jeremy Feldbusch, a Pitt graduate.

Shrapnel from a detonated artillery round in Iraq blinded Feldbusch, an Army Ranger, in 2003.

A slate of 144 golfers signed up to play this year, continuing the outing's sellout streak.

“We never have trouble with that,” said Long, an account manager with Sunnyvale, Calif.-based high-tech firm NetApp.

Players included 12 veterans and eight GNC employees who won spots through a company raffle that raised more than $5,000 in ticket sales, said Laurie Drinkhall, a spokeswoman. This is GNC's seventh year as lead sponsor.

The Jacksonville, Fla.-based Wounded Warrior Project has 13 offices in the United States and Germany, including a Pittsburgh location opened last year, intended to help more than 50,000 service members wounded in recent military conflicts, 320,000 experiencing traumatic brain injuries and as many as 400,000 suffering combat-related stress, major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

In 2005, then-Sgt. Heller suffered a back injury when a land mine explosion ejected him from a Humvee. His unit spent three hours battling through a sandstorm before getting medical attention for their injuries. The unit's team leader died along the way.

Heller, who left the Marine Corps the following year, experiences chronic back pain.

Now a merchandise planner with South Side-based American Eagle Outfitters, he is a golf tournament committee member.

At Diamond Run, he said, “People walk out of their houses to marshal each hole and thank the Wounded Warriors. I've never seen anything like it.”

Jason Cato is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7936 or jcato@tribweb.com.

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