Campaign under way to celebrate troops injured in combat

RANCHO SANTA FE — Everyone celebrates the day they were born, and the men and women who serve our country are no exception. 

Tony Perez, founder of Operation Game On, holds the microphone while his son, pro golfer Pat Perez, gives a putting demonstration before last year’s fundraising tournament. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

Tony Perez, founder of Operation Game On, holds the microphone while his son, pro golfer Pat Perez, gives a putting demonstration before last year’s fundraising tournament. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

But many — perhaps too many — look forward to another momentous occasion. They call it their “alive day,” the date on which they experienced a very close escape from death during combat.

“Fighting in a war tends to increase the probability of dying, and it can seem miraculous to escape death after an engagement with the enemy,” according to Wisegeek.com.

Because of their unique experiences in war, military members are tightly connected with each other, the website states. Alive day parties are one way to renew that connection and celebrate their survival with fellow combat veterans from their unit, fellow combat-injured troops, family members and other close friends.

With that thought, Tony Perez is on a mission to have Aug. 1 recognized as national Alive Day.

Perez is the founder of Operation Game On, a program that provides free golf lessons and specially designed equipment, as well as reduced playing fees, to combat-injured warriors, most with prosthetics.

The Rancho Santa Fe resident said he is not seeking a holiday, but rather a day during which Americans “can learn about, honor and recognize these heroes who escaped death while defending our freedom. It’s more than just saying, ‘Thank you for your service.’”

Perez said establishing a recognition day for our combat-injured will let them know Americans remember their sacrifice by celebrating their survival on a national basis.

To date, Perez has reached out to President Barack Obama and U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, who both responded with form letters.

On his list are U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, other congressmen and women, the media, his Operation Game On contacts and anyone else who will listen.

“How can they say no to this?” Perez asked. “We have all kinds of days in the United States recognized by presidential proclamations for one thing or another. We’ve got to get one for our combat-injured troops.”

He said he chose Aug. 1 because there are no other holidays that month.

“For our troops, this is like another birthday,” he said. “All these guys are thankful for being alive. To put it in golf terms, God gave them a mulligan in life and they’re taking advantage of it.”

Troops have been celebrating their alive day since at least the Vietnam War so the day will be for all combat-injured who served in all wars and conflicts.

“I truly believe it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “It may be a long shot, but that’s what I thought in January 2008 when I had a vision to teach golf to our severely combat-injured troops as a form of rehabilitation. I’m going to get it done one way or another.”

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