Veterans welcome

RBC Heritage

Heritage Classic Foundation thanks service members with Patriots Outpost

veteransThe RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing will continue its tradition of honoring military men and women at this year’s tournament, even as one longtime volunteer steps down from his leadership role.

The Heritage Classic Foundation offers free tournament admission to active-duty military and their dependents, and its Patriots Outpost will once again offer a free party and skybox by the 16th green for those who serve their country.

Capt. Jack Wilson, retired U.S. Navy Reserve, has been volunteering to run the Patriots Outpost since 2010 and has decided it’s time for younger retired veterans to take the reins.

“I think I’ve been doing it long enough,” Wilson says. “And I just felt that it was time to step back and let somebody else have a chance to take responsibility.”

Retired Navy Capt. Paul Hyers and retired Marine Master Sgt. Dwight Hora will step into the leadership posts. Wilson says he’ll still come by the outpost this year to relieve volunteers who need a break, but he’ll leave the heavy lifting to Hyers and Hora. 

“I’m confident they know how to handle things,” Wilson says.

veterans2The Patriots Outpost began in 2010 as a way for the Heritage Classic Foundation, which runs the tournament, to show appreciation for the military.

“The Heritage Classic Foundation created the Patriots Outpost to give active-duty military members a special experience at the RBC Heritage,” said tournament director Steve Wilmot. “It is our way of saying thank you for their service, sacrifice and dedication to our country.”

In 2012, the event moved from a tent at the 18th fairway to a skybox donated at the 16th hole. Each year, the outpost has grown, with last year’s event attracting a record crowd of 1,045 over four days, a 39 percent increase from 2015.

Over time, the outpost expanded admission to include retired military. Retirees who show military ID are allowed in on a space-available basis. Retired veterans also volunteer as hospitality ambassadors to check IDs for admission to the skybox.

The outpost offers free catered food and non-alcoholic beverages. Its title sponsor is Berkeley Capital Management, and CoastalStates Bank serves as presenting sponsor. The outpost also presents donations made to the tournament’s Patriot Partners program for various military charities.

Wilson has been with the outpost since its start. He had volunteered at the Heritage for five years when he was looking for a different task in 2010.

“It was all part of God’s plan,” Wilson says. “I happened to show up at the (Heritage Classic) Foundation at a time when this came through.”

Because he was retired military, he was asked to volunteer, and he gladly accepted. He has made sure the outpost operated smoothly since then, watching as it grew each year and brought cheer to the nation’s servicemen and women.

His most memorable tournament was in 2015, when pro golfer and fellow U.S. Naval Academy graduate Billy Hurley III paid a visit.

“He was gracious enough to come by the outpost, pose for pictures and talk to people,” Wilson said of Hurley, who served in the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf.

Hyers attributes much of the growth of the outpost crowd to improved efforts to spread the word to nearby military bases.

“As the word gets out more and more to the military community, they just keep coming,” Hyers says. “And that’s what we’ve been working on the last couple of years, to make sure that the word gets out. Because we found that a lot of people didn’t know about it.“

All branches of service are represented, with personnel coming from Parris Island, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and Fort Stewart, among other installations in the region. Military personnel also bring their dependents, and in some cases, families of deployed members come. Last year, for instance, a busload of wives of deployed Marines came in from MCAS Beaufort.

“It’s a family affair,” Hyers says. “It’s always a very respectful atmosphere.”

It’s also a way to honor the sacrifices made by military members and their families.

“This is a great way to give back to people who are serving their country,” Hyers says. “It shows appreciation for their sacrifices.”

Hyers expects another banner year for the Patriots Outpost at this month’s Heritage.

“The word is getting out that active-duty military can come to the tournament for free and can go to the outpost,” he says. “It’s going to be as big as last year, if not bigger.”