This Saturday, August 27, 2011, over 200 golfers will descend upon Rolling Meadows Country Club in Ellington, Connecticut to take part in the eighth annual Sgt. Felix M. Del Greco, Jr. Memorial Golf Tournament. It is the first time that Rolling Meadows has had the honor of hosting the event, and if past years are any indication, it promises to be a day filled with great golf and food and fun for all in attendance. The tournament is a fundraiser for the Felix M. Del Greco, Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund, the proceeds of which benefit CT National Guard and Simsbury Boy Scout Troop 76 scholarships. To date, more than $160,000 has been collected for the fund thanks to the generosity of past tournaments.
Felix Del Greco, Jr. was born July 18, 1981 to his parents Felix Sr. and Claire Del Greco. Felix – known as “Fee Fee” to his friends – grew up in Simsbury with his parents and his sister Alexa. Felix was an outgoing and personable boy who loved to swim, and was taken very early on with a strong desire to serve and to give back to his community, a quality that would be a driving force for him throughout his life. He joined the scouts in Simsbury and eventually achieved scouting’s highest honor when he earned the rank of Eagle Scout. He joined the military during his junior year in high school, and in the summer between his junior and senior years – when many other teenagers were taking vacations or working part time jobs – Felix was in basic training.
In the summer after his senior year in high school Felix attended advanced training before entering Northeastern University in Boston. In his first year he achieved a GPA of 3.89 and was named the military’s freshman scholar of the year. After his freshman year he went to war-torn Bosnia where he was again singled out and recognized for his distinguished service among 10,000 troops. After Bosnia, Felix returned to Northeastern University, where, as a political science major, he had his sights set ultimately on the highest office in the land. Nobody who knew Felix and understood his conviction and determination would consider that goal to be beyond his reach. Nothing was beyond his reach.
After just a semester, Felix was called up again and reported to West Point. It was there that his passion for service and his memories of the events of September 11, 2001 – which had a profound and lasting effect on him – found him volunteering to go to Iraq. He was sent to Baghdad where he was assigned to the Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 102nd Infantry. On April 9, 2004, within weeks of his arriving in Iraq, his mounted patrol came upon an improvised explosive device and small arms fire. Felix was killed, a few months shy of his 23rd birthday.
There are a number of reasons why we play golf this Saturday. No doubt, one of the reasons is because it is a great opportunity to get outdoors and have fun for a few hours. Eat some great food, have a few drinks, and relax and enjoy the company of friends and meet new people as well. Another reason that we play is because the cause is an excellent one, in that the proceeds become scholarship funds to children of CT National Guard members and to scouts from the very same troop where Felix had polished his own commitment to service. “Fee Fee” would be pleased with that fund. He would be pleased that scouts who demonstrate service to their community are beneficiaries of the fund, and equally pleased that the fund also benefits the children of the men and women of the CT National Guard, many of whom demonstrate the ultimate courage and service to our country themselves.
Another reason we play is to remember Felix himself. To take time to remember the personable young man with unwavering commitment to giving back, whose broad smile is preserved in our memories forever. One glance at the Fallen Heroes Memorial board for Felix demonstrates the lasting effect that he has had on so many. The board is filled with messages of memories and sadness and joy that still continue eight years later. “Felix was my first true love. I have never met anyone in this world so kind, generous, loyal, strong, and loving,” one message reads. “7 years and 10 days after you were stolen away from us my son was born, and we named him Felix after you. He will never know you, but he will know all about you and how much you meant to me,” reads another message. Or there is this one: “I can still feel my arm wrapped around yours walking down the street, sitting at a bar, pretty much any time we did anything together. This is the first time I have had the courage to write to you. I miss you everyday. You were just the most amazing soul I have ever met, couldn’t help but get swept up in you.”
Those of us who knew him play for Felix on Saturday, but we play for another reason as well. We play because he was our son or daughter, our brother or sister. We play because he was a boy who liked to swim and liked scouting. We play because, like all of us, he had hopes and dreams. We play because Felix exemplified the very best qualities that all of us hope resides within each of us, and Saturday is as good a day as any to take a moment to try and remember that.