Former YC golfer works to honor fallen Marines
Even though he was in South Dakota, former Yuma Catholic golfer Joey Pickels was keeping up with his hometown.
He still heard about the deaths of Lt. Col. Christopher “Otis” K. Raible and Sgt. Bradley W. Atwell, two Yuma-based Marines who died in an attack on Camp Bastion in Helmand province, Afghanistan, in September. He was also familiar with The Patriot All-America, a tournament in Phoenix at the end of the year that works with volunteer organization to honor fallen troops.
Pickels wrote the tournament organizers, looking to get Raible and Atwell recognition. Pickels said that each player — the field is made up of the top collegiate golfers in the country from all levels — carries the name of a fallen solider embroidered on their golf bag.
While it was past the deadline to submit troops, Pickels ended up earning a spot as an alternate in the tournament, and last week found out he will be competing in the event Thursday through Monday at The Wigwam Gold Course.
“It was just an opportunity to honor them,” Pickels said. “I had originally written them to see if they could work something out if they could be honored on the golf bags that will be auctioned off. I guess my letter was apparently good enough they offered me a spot as an alternate. I got the call (Tuesday) that a kid withdrew and opened up a spot for me.”
And while Raible and Atwell won't be on his bag, he said they are on his mind.
“I happened to click on the link on the article, and read about the funerals and all that,” Pickels said. “And I knew about this tournament and its mission. I figured that such a big Marine base in Arizona, with the tournament being in Arizona, should be honored.
“It's an honor, with Yuma being such a military-based community, to represent the community, an honor not only the two soldiers that passed but all the soldiers from Yuma who have gone on,” he said.
Not one to give up, Pickels said he contacted MCAS Yuma and informed them about his intentions of honoring Raible and Atwell at the tournament. They provided Pickels with replica name tags and squadron patches to wear.
“It gives me a chance to honor these two guys and do the best I can to honor them,” Pickels said.
After playing one tournament at South Dakota State, Pickels said he has decided to transfer to Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, which is getting set to move to the NCAA Division I level next year. He said nothing is official yet but he hopes to be playing for the school's golf team next year — possibly sooner.
Pickels said he hopes Raible and Atwell are honored next year.
“There's nothing official yet, but they definitely know of the story and how they died and I'm sure they'll make it a point to honor them next year,” Pickels said. “I mean, they should. They definitely deserve to be honored.”