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OKOLONA, Miss (WCBI)- 8 years ago, retired sergeant Michael Stafford’s life changed while serving his country in Iraq.

“We were traveling on a road on South of Baghdad and traveling out on a small mission and we hit a pressure plate IED out in the road. The explosion took my leg off instantly,” said Stafford.

Michael spent 7 months at Walter Reed’s Military hospital in Maryland learning how to walk again. Once he did, he moved back to Okolona and rediscovered his passion, playing golf.

“I started golf before my injury and it seems to be an interesting sport. It’s been good to me. So I just continued doing the same thing I was doing,” said Stafford.

Since then, Michael’s won several golf tournaments across America. This month, he will travel to Dallas and play in President George W. Bush’s third “Warrior Open” a 36-Hole competition honoring our wounded veterans.

“It’s a great reunion to meet up with other wounded soldiers,marines, airmen and it’s good to get around with all them. When we’re out there we’re treated like royalty,” said Stafford.

National Guard leaders in West Point say wounded soldiers face an emotional and physical mountain following a serious injury. However, getting past that barrier and moving on with their lives is the best thing for them.

” Being able to go out there and hit a golf ball and keep getting after it, especially doing well at it, is going to make somebody feel a lot better about their situation and none of these guys have anything to be ashamed of, but maybe this gives them one more thing to be proud of,” said Jacob Harrison with the Army National Guard in West Point.

As Michael prepares to hit the links, he can’t help but reflect on how lucky he is to play the sport he loves and have his family.

“My wife and kids, they’re with me and back me up 100% on everything I do. I have two kids. My oldest kid is going out with me,Brandon, to caddy for me. He went last year and brought me some luck so i’m carrying him back this year,” said Stafford.

Stafford is now the golf course manager at Okolona Country Club. The tournament runs from September 26th-September 28th.

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