US 'band of brothers' take Irish golf courses by storm
RECENT NIGHTS in Co Kerry have been marked by some of the deepest most undisturbed slumbers of the past eight years for Maj Ed Pulido, a much decorated US ex-serviceman.
The veteran was severely wounded in a blast north of Baghdad in 2004.
He is leading a group of some 25 former US servicemen in an 11-day tour of golf courses, courtesy of Irish hotels, Aer Lingus, Fáilte Ireland, tour bus companies and organisers Irish luxury Golf Digest Irish Tours.
For anyone flying through Shannon, hundreds of young US soldiers in grey and beige uniforms have become a familiar sight. And indeed the last, and for most the only time, this group has been in Ireland was in transit to and from the war theatres.
This was before losing their limbs and in some cases their eyes.
Maj Pulido (44) who lost his left leg says his company had stopped off in Dublin. After recovering he set to work seven days a week to promote the Folds of Honour foundation to support wounded “warriors” to be independent and to raise funds to look after the educational needs of their families.
“We are warriors. That’s what we call ourselves,” he says.
Over the weekend Maj Pulido has been astonished at how eager people in Ireland have been to hear their stories, regardless of what they thought of the war.
He has also for the first time been able to switch off completely and sleep deeply.
“I never imagined being invited to a foreign country,” says the veteran.
He was a career soldier for almost 20 years before being wounded and understands people have opinions on the rights and wrongs of the wars.
“I don’t get into the politics of that. My sacrifice is just, because no matter who is in power we take an oath to the US. Like the firemen, the soldier doesn’t care what fire he has to fight. He just has to fight the fire, ” he adds.
Sgt Ramon Padilla (37), also a career serviceman, remembers stopping at Shannon on his way back from his first tour of duty in Iraq.
“I was mad to get out to see Ireland,” he remembers.
On his second tour of Afghanistan in 2007 he was so badly wounded in the Karengal Valley that he lost a hand and half his skull.
He took up golf after recovering from his wounds and invented a device for holding a club. He now has a 12 handicap. Golf gives him a sense of achievement and the peace of the courses has overwhelmed him.
As well as Ballybunion, Waterville and Tralee links courses, the veterans will play the Old Head of Kinsale, Fota Island, the European, Portmarnock, Royal County Down, Royal Portrush and Dromoland Castle.
Mary Hartnett, marketing manager with the Killarney Plaza Hotel and representative of the Irish hotels who are providing free accommodation, said: “We are happy to provide accommodation, with our compliments.
“We cannot begin to understand what these families have been through, but would like to play our part in creating a new, happy and lasting memory for them.”
As well as the Killarney Plaza, the group will also visit Carton House, Slieve Donard and the Merrion Hotel.