From homelessness to owning a mortgage-free home, former U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Steven Klimtzak rode a wave of emotions as he received the keys to his new home in Boston, N.Y., just outside of Buffalo.
“I was scared as I was going through the process with the Military Warriors Support Foundation. Not scare for me but for my boys,” shared Klimtzak. “I was homeless and had moved back in with my mom. Because of my situation, I didn’t get to see my boys a lot. Today, I have a house that we can make our home. I am speechless. This is the greatest gift. Someone is looking out for me and my boys.”
It was all pomp and circumstance as the Colorado PGA REACH Foundation held its annual REACH Invitational Golf Tournament on Wednesday, July 17, 2019, at The Golf Club at Bear Dance where tribute was paid to Klimtzak for his service and sacrifice to our country. Bagpipers led the Marine onto the course where the American flag was hoisted for the very first time onto the newly installed pole. Everyone stood at attention as the trumpeter sounded the National Anthem.
“Steven definitely earned the respect and admiration of everyone attending the event on Wednesday,” comments Stuart Bruening, co-partner of Southwest Greens. “He is a shining example of the dedication of those who serve our country and we are proud to be able to support them in return.”
At its largest fund-raiser of the year, the Colorado PGA REACH Foundation, with the support and dedication of its trustees, raised more than $85,000 to support its many programs. This includes the $25,000 donation from Southwest Greens that makes this home give-away possible.
Joining the Marine Corp was a challenge for Klimtzak. Not only did he want to follow in the shoes of his uncle, but the Marine Corp is the toughest branch of the military and he wanted to prove to himself, as well as to those that said he could never do it, that he could. He never quite and joyfully joined the ranks of the Marines – the best of the best! By doing so, he became a part of a brotherhood.
Fighting through his emotions, Klimtzak described the events of September 1, 2004, at 12:01 p.m. when the vehicle he was riding in was hit by a road-side bomb. He credits the driver and his ability to keep the vehicle on the road for saving the lives of everyone inside. They were heading to a local Iraqi school to assess how they could help them and to deliver school supplies, soccer balls and basketballs when the IED struck their vehicle. This incident earned him a Purple Heart.
“I didn’t get into the Marine Corp for awards,” said Klimtzak. “The group to which I was attached, the 4th Civil Affairs Group, was trained to win the hearts and minds of the local Iraqi’s and to work closely with local Iraqi’s and tribes. I feel that we completed our mission. I was there for the first National election, worked with the water treatment plant, sewage plants and banks to name a few. We had a purpose there and we could go to bed each night knowing that we had made a difference.”
When asked about the impact this experience has had on him and his family, he quoted Robin Williams from the movie Mrs. Doubtfire, “Like air, I can’t live without it and I can’t live without my boys. My boys are everything to me. Having this home helps us to build our future and to grow our relationship stronger each day. I have the chance to be their dad and to instill in them morals and to show them what respect and kindness to others is all about.”
While in Colorado, Klimtzak had the opportunity to be fit for a new set of clubs by PGA Professional Brian Gott, Gott Golf. The Colorado PGA REACH trustees personally presented the clubs to Klimtzak during the pre-event ceremony, filling his new golf bag with a gift he will long remember and definitely use as he played a total of 184 rounds in 2018. He shared that his family was always all about baseball. Yet, growing up, he was the kid in the outfield picking dandelions, so he took up golf, which is a much better fit for him. Golf has taught him discipline and patience and he enjoys those moments when he can take his boys out to the course and share his passion with them.
“It was an honor to be able to gift a golfer like Steven a new set of clubs,” says Eddie Ainsworth, PGA, Colorado PGA Executive Director and CEO. “He served his country honorably by risking his life for our freedom. Being able to give back to him was a real privilege and blessing.”
The success of this program can be attributed to the many organizations that work together toward the common goal of facilitating a smooth and successful transition of our nation’s combat wounded heroes. The Military Warriors Support Foundation evaluates and selects deserving combat-wounded heroes to receive mortgage-free homes. Wells Fargo contributes and remodels homes that it then donates to the program. Colorado PGA REACH Foundation, through its Supporting Our Military Pillar, provides the avenue to donate the home and Southwest Greens, through the profits of its Mile-High Golf Trail Program, provided the funding for the home give-away. These funds will provide family and financial mentoring to assure the hero is given the necessary tools to be successful with this newly attained investment.