Honoring veterans and military families at Rochester’s Tee It Up For The Troops fundraiser

(ABC 6 News) – It’s an annual event that started out as a way to show support for military members abroad.

Tee It Up for the Troops was started in 2005 by J.B. Bell of Mendota Heights, Minnesota while his son was serving abroad.

“When my son was in Iraq, friends and family in a bible study group asked what they could send to him,” said Bell. “When he called he said, ‘“’Forget about me, do something back home.’”’ So, we just gathered a few people from the community together and played a round of golf and it’s kind of snowballed from there since then.”

That has turned into an avalanche of support for veterans and families who have lost loved ones in the service. From honoring Gold Star Families to World War II veterans, no veteran is forgotten at this annual event.

Kay and Dave Swenson are a Gold Star family and have been attending Tee It Up since their son, Curtis Swenson, a marine, died in the line of duty in Afghanistan on April 2, 2010.

“It’s a time to get together with the Gold Star families as well, especially after COVID when there’s not a lot of events that have made it through COVID,” said Kay Swenson, Curtis’s mother. It’s kinda nice to come out here and see how each of the families are doing each year.”

“We’ve been very blessed with running in this community of veterans here. It’s been great. Nobody wants to forget your, forget your sacrifice, or theirs,” added Dave Swenson, Curtis’s father. “And this golf tournament is a big part of that and we really appreciate being invited out here.”

Some of the oldest veterans in the community are also honored and have great appreciation for this event each year.

“Well, I appreciate the fact that the Tee it up for the Troops honored us today,” said Duane Grafe, Korean War Navy veteran. “Several of the World War II veterans as well and as old as 105 and that’s very historical.”

The Korean War Armistice was signed 70 years ago on July 27, 2023. The War is still ongoing and is known as the Forgotten War, but the appreciation shown for veterans of this War is appreciate by Grafe.

“We really appreciate the fact that people turnout and recognize the fact that we participated in the Korean War. It makes it all worthwhile,” said Grafe.

One of the WWII veterans in attendance was 100-year-old Richard Staub, who served in the Army Mechanized Infantry. Staub was originally born in Germany and his dad served in WWI in the Imperial German Army.

“We rode in the half track, you know what that is,” said Staub. “There’s four guys on each side and that’s what I rode in. And we went through France, Belgium and ended up fighting in Germany which was three miles from where I was born.”

Staub fought in the European theater, including the Battle of the Bulge. Returning to his home country, Staub had a great sense of pride fighting for his adoptive country that gave him a better life to grow up in. But there were still family members of Staub’s in Germany when he returned there for the war. And fortunately, he was able to reunite with them.

“When you’re close to the fighting and right at home, it’s kinda sad. But after the war was over I did get to see my grandpa. My grandpa was still alive after the war and I did get to see him.”

Over the 18 years that Tee It Up for the Troops has been occurring it has raised over $14 million nationwide for veterans, Gold Star families, and numerous other veteran organizations. Organizers anticipate that by the end of 2024, the total amount raised will reach the $15 million threshold.