Andrew Shaw steadies himself in his wheelchair and carefully lines up the putt. Under the watchful eye of Arunah Strassberger, a Red Cross volunteer and professional golf instructor, Andrew taps the ball and watches it roll into the cup several feet away. Cheers erupt throughout the gallery—which consists of 10 or so Wounded Warriors and medical personnel in the Occupational Therapy Clinic at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Under the watchful eye of Red Cross volunteer Arunah Strassberger, a professional golf instructor, a wounded U.S. soldier practices putting a golf ball to improve his fine motor skills.
(Photo: Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross)
“Strauss,” as everyone calls the dedicated volunteer, thought the amputees at Walter Reed might benefit from practicing the delicate balance and control needed to knock a golf ball into a hole. He brought his portable putting green to the clinic and quickly became a legend among the patients and staff.
Strauss, who began playing golf in 1934, likes to entertain the Wounded Warriors with tales of his many years on the golf course. “I could hook and slice with the best of them,” he jokes, “but on the putting green is where I sort of held force.” He beat well-known professionals in hundreds of putting competitions; one pro even threw down his clubs and stormed off the course after watching Strauss successfully sink several difficult putts in a row.
Strauss had been a patient at Walter Reed as a young soldier during World War II and feels it is his turn to give back. Now 94, he doesn’t plan to retire from his volunteer duties any time soon.
“It’s something I wish I could do more often,” he says of his two-days-a-week service in the clinic. “I’m here to do whatever I can for these heroes. It’s more than a pleasure; I mean, I can’t do enough for them.”
Strauss’ volunteer work at Walter Reed took a near-tragic turn on May 25, 2019, when he got word that his grandson’s Humvee had hit a landmine in Iraq. Two of the soldiers in the vehicle were killed, and Strauss’ grandson was severely injured and suffered brain damage. He was in a coma, but Strauss was there to meet him when he arrived at Walter Reed four days later.
“The treatment he got here couldn’t have been better,” Strauss recalls. “After he was stabilized to the point where they could let him out of the ward, he would come down here [to the Occupational Therapy Clinic] and play golf with me. And we’d go to lunch together. We did that for a year.” Thanks to outstanding medical care and plenty of encouragement on the putting green, Strauss’ own Wounded Warrior has fully recovered.
Today, Strauss continues his volunteer work at Walter Reed and is looking forward to the arrival of two new putting greens in the clinic. He wants to help as many of these young men and women as he possibly can.
“When I look at these fellows that have been torn apart by shrapnel, which is most of them we’re getting now—I mean, their arms, their legs, their face—it gets me. I want to do more for them. And I will, to the day I die.”
The American Red Cross is not a government agency. We rely on the assistance of caring supporters like you to deliver our critical services. You can support U.S. military members and their families through the American Red Cross as we provide assistance and comfort. Your gift will support the nationally coordinated Red Cross services provided to military families across the country and to American service men and women located throughout the world. Please make a financial donation to Services to Armed Forces by calling 1-800-RED CROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions may be sent to the American Red Cross Services to Armed Forces, P.O. Box 91820, Washington, DC 20090. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org.