Purple Coronary heart recipient Charles Eggleston tees off for bodily and psychological health

When Charles Eggleston steps onto a golf course, he does a lot more than just try to hit a ball from a tee and into a hole. He takes another step on an incredible journey that has inspired thousands of people including presidents, golf legends and anyone who has had the opportunity to hear him tell his story. The Salute Military Golf Association (SMGA) supporter and player credits the game with helping him improve his fitness, not just what you see when he hits a shot. For him, golf is much more than that.

"That's also mental fitness, the structure of fitness," said the Purple Heart and Bronze Star winner. To understand why mental fitness is so important to him, you have to understand the path he has traveled to get to where he is today.

Growing up Eggleston was a fan of The A-Team, including Mr. T, he played with GI Joe action figures, and his interests seemed to revolve around the military. He called the soldiers who fought for their country in his youth “superheroes”. So it was only natural that he would register himself later. He actually gave up a career as a computer engineer in Washington, DC when he made that decision. His mother wasn't happy with that decision after finding out.

"When my mother found out about it, she went crazy," Eggleston recalls. "She said, 'What the hell? You make six figures, you've done everything you need to do in life, you don't need to do that.'”

By the time his mother found out about his choice, however, it was already too late because Eggleston was already in basic training. She asked why he made the decision her son made, but he actually wondered why he couldn't serve.

"The transition was when I started saying to myself, 'I'm getting all of this, I'm basically getting, and I haven't given this country anything.' It was just epitome for me that I decided to let myself go into the military.”

Charles Eggleston made that commitment, and it was a great commitment. Within weeks of the September 11 attacks on the United States, he was sent to Iraq to take part in combat. He explained that what people in this part of the world perceive as war is very different from what it really was.

“It was urban with a mix of jungle warfare. When most people think of Iraq, they think of a place full of sand. , it's very woody in places," he revealed. "Palm trees and bush areas, there are many places to hide."

Eggleston's team was among the first to be sent there, and he returned to the United States after completing that mission. He would actually be sent back for another mission.

The second trip was even more intense because the opposition had more weapons of war, including IEDs. Eggleston's team suffered the effects of one of these IEDs. Eggleston was injured so badly he thought he was going to die too. When he received medical attention, they nearly amputated his leg because they mistook someone else's X-rays for his own. Eggleston survived, but he underwent well over 50 surgeries during his recovery after returning to the United States. He expressed that part of what he calls "The Journey" involved a lot of rehabilitation and took a toll on both his mental and physical health.

“I had to relearn everything. It still pisses you off when you think about having to recalculate everything about yourself as a person," he said solemnly. "For some outsiders, it became a joke. I can understand kids saying things, but some adults did too. I had beams that went through my legs and I had a special contraption that helped me walk most of the time," he recalled. “Kissing fate in the face changes your soul. If you smell death without passing it on, it's different."

Charles Eggleston spent the remainder of his military career recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. However, his most famous ministry was when he was in the hospital. The conditions under which the military members were staying during this time were substandard, and Eggleston made that clear to President George W. Bush when he walked in to express his gratitude to those in attendance.

“They took notes a lot of the time. I remember him saying, 'We're going to fix this.'"

This encounter would lead to what became known as the "Walter Reed scandal." and Eggleston's speech resulted in the hospital being temporarily closed. In the end, dramatic changes in the treatment of residents in the future. Many veterans who have since received medical attention can thank Eggleston for the improvements made.

Courtesy of Charles Eggleston

The game that changed Charles Eggleston's life

As he worked his way through recovery, Eggleston had another visitor who would help him change his life for the better. PGA golfer Jim Estes visited him and wanted to take him on a golf outing.

"He said, 'I'll fix you through fitness,'" Eggleston recalled. "I still remember that."

This offer initially met with resistance, but then Estes upped the ante in the form of a $100 bet. If Eggleston wasn't having fun, Estes would give him the money. If he did, there would be no debt to pay.

The duo went to the Chevy Chase Country Club to play. PGA legend Phil Mickelson was in attendance that day, as were other PGA pros like Bubba Watson. When Charles Eggleston teeed off, he hit a clean shot down the fairway. The same thing happened on another tee shot. The challenge of hitting that little white ball accurately was a mental challenge for the veteran, who expressed gratitude for the moment.

Charles Eggleston plays golf with Bubba WatsonCourtesy of Charles Eggleston

"The game of golf became my salvation," Eggleston said. "If anyone ever asks my story, golf saved my life. It became a new beginning for my new journey.”

Charles Eggleston gradually improved in the game, rubbing shoulders with many other pros in the process, including 15-time Major winner Tiger Woods. Woods and other athletes reached out and offered support and friendship to Eggleston because they were inspired by his experience and his ability to overcome the adversities he faced along the way.

While he enjoys spending time with those considered to be the best in his sport, the biggest benefit for him has been helping him regain his mental and physical well-being. He still weights at least four days a week and plays as often as he can. He is ranked as one of the top Wounded Warrior golfers in the nation and he plans to enjoy the gift he was given for a long time to come.

"Golf has helped me break down what we call the sap, the bad things in war and in life. Physical fitness has given me something that no one can take away from me. Can't wait to smell this the next day. Physical fitness is the silver bullet to so many bad traits.”

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