With 2016-17 Folds of Honor Program, Brenau Golfers Carry Personal Burdens of Fallen Warriors
BY KENYA HUNTER
For the second year, the Brenau University Golden Tigers Golf Team joined with the Folds of Honor Foundation to help raise scholarship money for children of military people who have lost their lives. But this year it’s personal.
The golfers throughout the year carry golf bags bearing the name of a fallen U.S. military service member and raffle them off at the end of the season for the national nonprofit.
This year the Golden Tigers will carry two bags with the names of Theron V. Hobbs, the cousin of Golden Tiger golfer Lakese Brown, a junior nursing major from Albany, Georgia, and Medal of Honor recipient Larry E. Smedley, cousin of Brenau University Postmaster Vern Smedley.
“Once I learned how much Brenau University has been involved with military life and people who are in military service, I thought it was a very good way for us to show our support,” said Damon Stancil, Brenau University head golf coach. “Now it is more than a community service thing. It’s a personal tribute. I didn’t want the players to look at this as something that they do because the coach says we have to.”
U.S. Army Pfc. Theron V. Hobbs from Albany was Golden Tiger golfer Lakese Brown’s cousin. Hobbs, assigned to the 572nd Engineer Company, 20th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade at Fort Hood, Texas, died Nov. 6, 2008, in a motor vehicle accident in Kirkuk, Iraq.
Hobbs, then 22, and his wife were expecting his first child when he was killed. “The accident was very unfortunate and really rocked his branch of service and our family when we got the news,” Brown recalled.
She remembers having a great relationship with her cousin despite how young she was when he died. “I remember when he would come visit sometimes and just talk to me like I was the most important person in the world,” Brown said. “Every time I would see him my face would light up with joy. My favorite thing about him was how loving and interested he was in truly getting to know my family. Although he was not with us long, he was family, and he always will be family to me.”
Vern Smedley’s cousin, Cpl. Larry E. Smedley, died in combat while serving as a U.S. Marine Corps. Vern Smedley – also a veteran Marine – is Brenau University postmaster, and his cousin will also have a bag with his name stitched across a gold bag.
Larry Smedley was born in Front Royal, Virginia, and enlisted in the Marines in 1966 in Orlando, Florida.
“He was only 19 years old when he died,” Vern Smedley said. “They got into an ambush in Vietnam.” Larry Smedley was mortally wounded in the ambush while on patrol in Quảng Nam Province. “He was trying to save everybody else. Then he took a fatal shot.”
For his action, Larry Smedley received the nation’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, as well as the Purple Heart and the Presidential Unit Citation. The eponymous Corporal Larry E. Smedley National Vietnam War Museum honors his service in the Vietnam War.
“He’s on the wall, of course, with all the other 55,000 members who were killed in Vietnam,” Vern Smedley said. “Died too young.”
Vern Smedley remembers his relationship with his cousin as a distant one, but it does not change how much he honors and appreciates Smedley’s service in the Marines. “I really knew him in passing because I didn’t get out of the state of Florida,” he said. “I really got to know him when he and his family came to visit Florida from Virginia.”
Both Brown and Smedley said that they are proud to have the personal connection to the Folds of Honor Program.
“Anything that helps anybody in the military, I’ll support,” said Smedley. “They need all the support they can get.”
“I am so happy that Brenau is doing the Folds of Honor program,” said Brown, who will be the Golden Tiger who carries the golf bag with her cousin’s name stitched on it. “I am very honored and proud to be able to keep his legacy and name going through this program. It really brings my heart pure joy to have his name stitched across my bag, and every time I look down to grab something out of it, I will be reminded of him and his sacrifice.”
To participate in the Brenau Folds of Honor raffle, contact Coach Stancil at firstname.lastname@example.org. Raffle tickets cost $20 each. Half the proceeds go to the national Folds of Honor Foundation and half go toward scholarships at Brenau for active duty military, veterans or dependents.
Kenya Hunter is a Brenau University junior majoring in mass communication from Acworth, Georgia.