By Teresa Woodard | Fox 2 News | Fox2now.com| August 28, 2011
ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI-FOX2now.com)
More than $52 million has been donated to injured Marines and their families, thanks to a special fund created by Marine wives. And St. Louis has played a critical role in its success.
There couldn't have been a more glorious day than Sunday at Legends Golf Course in Eureka: blue sky, warm sun, a gentle breeze, and American flags waving. Perhaps the day was a sign of higher powers smiling on the mission. It was the 7th Annual James T. Conway Charity Golf Outing, and General Conway himself was there. A St. Louis native who used to command the entire United States Marine Corps, the general has led the best men in the worst times, and seen the worst things happen to the best of men.
"It's incredible, what Marines are living through. I firmly believe that had this been Vietnam, Korea, World War II, most of these men would have died from their injuries," he said, reflecting on what he witnessed during almost weekly visits to Marines at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Washington. "Some of the injuries are incredible to behold."
His entire career, his wife Annette of Ste. Genevieve has been by his side. She helped found the Semper Fi Fund in 2003 when a nurse at Camp Pendleton, California, where they were then based, told her the families rushing to the bedsides of injured Marines needed help.
"The best medicine we have for our wounded is for them to be together," she said. "These families dropped everything. And these were families who didn't have 50 cents to rub together. They left jobs, other children, car payments, grocery bills and other bills at home just to be with their wounded child, sweetheart, spouse, or even grandchild," she said.
The Semper Fi Fund immediately gives to injured Marines and their families what the government can't: money and help.
"They deserve a life, they deserve the best we can give to them," said Annette Conway.
The guest of honor at this year's golf outing was Marine Corporal Todd Nicely of Arnold, one of only a handful of surviving quadruple amputees from the war in Afghanistan. He couldn't be in Eureka in person, because he is officially retiring from the Marine Corps Wednesday. So he spoke to the group via a web cam.
"First of all I'd like to say it's a privilege to be the honoree of this tournament this year," he said. "This is going to help to raise a bunch of money to help a bunch more wounded and injured marines who are coming in, because this war is not over yet as you all know."
He and his wife said the Semper Fi Fund have been critical to his rehabilitation, and St. Louis has been critical to the fund's success. The golf outing is the largest in the nation. In seven years, it's raised more than $1 million.
"This is one of the great philanthropic centers in the country," said Allen Allred, a former Marine who also organizes the outing. "We're not the biggest city in the United States, but people have big hearts in St. Louis, and St. Louisans know how to give back."
The city especially gives to heroes. If you'd like to help, go to www.semperfifund.org.