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Giving back on the greens
Golf tournament raises money for widows of soldiers

SUWANEE - About 100 golfers prepared to have some fun on the course Wednesday, but the crack of rifles in a salute to fallen heroes reminded them that the tournament was for a good cause.

The annual Operation One Voice tournament was expected to raise about $30,000 for the families of fallen or wounded special forces officers.

The nonprofit, which began as a project for the city of Duluth, has raised $300,000 in the past three years, providing immediate or emergency support for the families of the wounded and education donations so children, spouses or widows could continue their education, building wheelchair ramps and specially designed bicycles, providing flights for soldiers to go to the hospital and rental cars for their spouses to visit them and other services.

"Our goal is to take care of the needs. We're filling gaps," said Duluth Police Lt. Bill Stevens, who began the charity, which is now supported by a board of policemen, firefighters and community leaders.

At Wednesday's tournament, held at Bear's Best Golf Course in Suwanee, military widow Maria (Patsy) Dietz thanked the golfers for their support in the $1,000 donation per foursome event.

Her husband, Danny Dietz, was one of three Navy SEALs killed during a mission to find a Taliban leader in Afghanistan. Eight more SEALs and eight Army NightStalkers were killed when a helicopter attempting to rescue the men crashed. One member of the mission's team survived.

The June 28, 2005, tragedy was the worst single combat loss of Navy SEALs in history and was the subject of the book, "Lone Survivor." Maria Dietz signed copies for the golfers Wednesday.

"It's an honor to be able to speak for the guys of June 28 and for a good cause," Dietz said, adding that she would spread the word about the charity.

"It's been a long road, and you learn a lot. It just makes you stronger every year," she said, adding that Operation One Voice's work may make the road a little bit easier for widows and families.

On the tournament and the support from the community, she said, "it means a lot to me because it means Danny did not die in vain, and it means there are still good Americans supporting our troops."