Appreciation and thankful are just a few of the words military personnel used to describe the opportunity they had Monday to participate in the Freedom Classic Golf Tournament at Indian Bayou Golf and Country Club.
"It's really cool," said Dustin Wade of South Carolina, who just got back last week from serving in Afghanistan. "It's nice just to be outside. It's like a little taste of freedom. I appreciate all the people for putting this on for us. It's nice to know people care."
Now in its seventh year, the Freedom Classic Golf Tournament founded by Destin Developer Buddy Runnels, gave 150 young enlisted personnel from the 96th Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base the chance Monday to enjoy a plate of barbeque with all the fixings and play a round of golf.
"We do it just out of honor for our fighting men and women for what they do for this great country," Runnels said. "Without them, where would we be?"
Runnels said a friend once told him that the most difficult thing a person in the military has to deal with while deployed is "doing something my family needs that I can't take care of."
"So I said, enough is enough," Runnels said. "We need to do a little something just to let them know how much we appreciate them.”
Runnels and Oliver North's Freedom Alliance group teamed up to put on the tournament. Several businesses in the area helped to sponsor the food and 18-holes of golf.
"It's awesome," said Justin Jorgensen of Illinois. "I love the community support. You don't get that everywhere you go. And I love to play golf … it's going to be a great day."
Mike Bodner, of the civil engineering squadron, said after taking a bite of his sandwich, "It's great to be a part of this stuff. For our bosses to allow us to do this on a Monday is awesome."
Tim Lawrence of Arkansas, who is part of the JDAT at Eglin, was also very appreciative of the golf outing.
"It's nice know your efforts are not in vain," Lawrence said. "And we really appreciate everything, the golf course and all the folks that put this on."
"It's heartwarming to know someone put on a day like this for us," said Ben Miller of Atlanta who is in the 96th maintenance group at Eglin. "They are a real class act."
Golf Pro Jim Carpenter at Indian Bayou says the group of enlisted personnel was a pleasure to work with.
"They are phenomenal," Carpenter said.
The Freedom Classic has hosted about 1,300 military men and women during the past seven tournaments.
"We will continue this for as long as we can," Runnels said. "It's just a simple way to say thank you devoutly for what you do for us."