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MOAA Golf Tournament

On April 16, the Lake & Sumter County chapter of Military Officers Association of America hosted its 13th annual golf tournament as they accomplish 50 years of camaraderie and community support this year. It was a part of the annual community-wide fundraiser to help promote military-related charities.

All tournament proceeds helped MOAA fund numerous initiatives such as, Operation Helping Hand, a Tampa-based group that helps critically wounded soldiers; Support The Troops, a Wesley Chapel-based organization that sends care packages to soldiers overseas; and the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, or Junior ROTC.

The MOAA chapter spans across all Lake and Sumter counties, as well as The Villages in Marion County.

Bill Griswold, a Eustis resident and the U.S. Coast Guard captain, joined the local MOAA chapter in 1993. While Junior ROTC has been a key focus for the group since he first came aboard, Griswold pointed the chapter’s optimism for the program to the start of the golf tournament in 2008 and the addition of Villagers to the group.

“These kids have gone out of their way to join ROTC, and it takes a good bit of work,” Griswold said. “We’re very proud of these kids. They go the extra mile. They’re very sharp, patriotic people.”

About 35% of all US military officers, according to the Defense Department, are graduates of ROTC, which is conducted on college campuses.

The tournament revenue funds two scholarships at each high school the chapter serves: Eustis, Leesburg, Mount Dora, South Lake, South Sumter, and Umatilla, according to Don Hansen.

“The top senior cadet earns $1,000, while the No. 2 receives $500-which amounts to a total of $9,000 each year,” he added. Hansen, the current president, and a retired Army officer who lives in the Village of Charlotte, said the group today has more than 200 members.

“When I first joined, the chapter was about 70 members, mostly dedicated to social functions, and drew people mostly from around Eustis, Mount Dora, and Tavares,” Griswold recalled. But members became concerned about long-term sustainability, especially as World War II veterans passed away, he said. So, Sumter County, and specifically The Villages, became a mark for membership growth.

Before deciding to serve, high school students can also get familiar with military ways through the Junior ROTC program, available at more than 1,700 public and private high schools across the country, including six in Sumter and Lake counties. “The military is a volunteer organization, and a very small number of people are veterans,” Hansen said. “These students are able to learn about the military and its significance in protecting our nation. ROTC gives kids the opportunity to understand what part the military has played in preserving our liberty.”

Attributed Source, The Villages Daily Sun