When Matthew Lempergel was home on leave from the Army, he would spend time communicating with his fellow soldiers downrange. His mother, Crystal Wallick, remembers he would say, “I have to make sure my brothers and sisters are OK, and when I know they’re OK, I can enjoy my day.”
Matthew had the brightest smile. After his deployment to Afghanistan, Crystal could tell he had changed. He experienced mood swings, kept to himself, and was eventually diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The day before he was scheduled to have an appointment with a counselor, Matthew died by suicide at his grandmother’s home in Pennsylvania. He was 25.
Rather than sitting in grief, Crystal decided to honor his memory by raising awareness of PTSD and suicide. The busy registered nurse made time for auctions to raise funds for veterans with visible and invisible injuries – keeping connected to them in her own way after losing Matthew. She is an advocate and fundraiser for veterans through Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP).
“Matthew would want me to help as many veterans as possible,” Crystal said. After learning about WWP from a cousin who is also a veteran, Crystal reached out to WWP and started hosting community fundraisers. For 10 years, she’s met other families who have experienced the heartbreaking loss she went through.
“I encourage them to do fundraising in whatever their loved one enjoyed,” Crystal said. “I tell them that I know Matthew would not want me to be down around holidays and other important dates.”
“I went to counseling for help with my grieving process,” Crystal added. “But what keeps me going is every time I am out doing a fundraising event and a soldier, or a family member of a soldier, thanks me and says, ‘I don’t know where I would be if it weren’t for Wounded Warrior Project.’ That makes my day. Many mothers and fathers will ask me for a hug or a cry, and then say, ‘thank you and thank you for your son’s service.’”
Solidarity with Fellow Servicemen and Women
David McCurdy served in the Army shortly after the Vietnam War. He’s aware of the hardships many fellow veterans have endured. He considers himself lucky to have served when he did and wants to show his support by giving.
“They’re doing the fighting for us – I want to help and support them,” David said.
David and his wife have a nephew who served in Afghanistan. David’s father served in WWII and his father-in-law served during the Korean War.
After hearing about WWP on TV, David and his wife were motivated to help. He started sending money each month and learning more about the needs of post-9/11 veterans. After a few years, he increased his donations.
David and his wife give to veterans from their home in Colorado because they’re aware that military servicemen and women “are coming back with wounds that they’ll live with for the rest of their lives,” David said. “I give funds to people who are professionals and know how to give help and provide resources where and when veterans need them.”
Teeing Off for Veterans in Recognition and Generosity
George Eubank is a conscientious civilian who saw a need. He had been giving to veterans through WWP over the years and wanted to increase his giving. He inquired about a golf event where he could “buy a foursome” to help veterans. Hearing there were golf events for WWP around the country, but not in Northeast Florida where WWP headquarters is located, he decided to create one.
He and his fiancée Kate Miller formed a nonprofit with a board of directors and got to work on a golf tournament at THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. “Our goal was to raise funds and awareness for Wounded Warrior Project and its mission while connecting warriors to supporters in the community,” George said.
He wants people to know WWP is based in Jacksonville, Florida, and learn about the variety of programs and services WWP brings to warriors and their families.
“For me, it’s life-changing,” George said about the impact WWP has on veterans and family support members. “It’s humbling to be a part of that, albeit a small part, and to give to the organization. One suicide is too many and we need to get that rate down as fast as we can.”
The first TPC Sawgrass Charity Golf Tournament Benefitting Wounded Warrior Project took place on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2021, and brought together injured warriors and those who are committed to helping them make successful transitions to civilian life.
The tournament included a variety of auction items, including a custom Harley Davidson motorcycle. The goal is to make the veterans-focused fundraiser an annual event in Northeast Florida.
George had support from many people, including another event organizer in Arizona. Chuck McGould, a 31-year veteran of the Army and National Guard, hosts a WWP golf fundraiser in Sedona, Arizona.
Chuck has raised thousands of dollars for programs that serve veterans and has built a network of veterans and corporate sponsors. He produces his own challenge coin for a special ceremony during the tournament and involves Sedona businesses in a charity weekend that includes an auction, Jeep tours, a chef-led cooking demo, and WWII and Korean veterans who drive from Phoenix to participate.
“As a 31-year Army retiree with West Point, 82nd Airborne Division, North Carolina/Arizona Army National Guard, and Afghanistan deployment roots, I keenly appreciate our nation’s military and their extraordinary sacrifices,” Chuck said.
Contact: Raquel Rivas – Public Relations, email@example.com, 904.426.9783
About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.