Army Capt. Laura Chirio Works on Selfridge Valor Cup LPGA Pro-Am to Help Female Veterans
ANN ARBOR – Capt. Laura Chirio isn’t a golfer.
But the U.S. Army officer who also works for the Eisenhower Center is counting on the first Selfridge Valor Cup Military LPGA Pro-Am featuring professional golfers from the upcoming LPGA Volvik Championship to help raise awareness for the health needs of female military veterans.
“You could say I’m passionate about it,” said Chirio, who is much more than a captain in the Michigan Army National Guard.
She also manages a Eisenhower facility that specializes in treating veterans in Manchester, Mich., is a Master’s level social worker specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention, and is the program director for the Eisenhower Center’s landmark “After The Impact” program that treats wounded combat veterans, first responders and NFL players with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress.
The Eisenhower Center, one of the leading brain injury care facilities in the United States, is the sponsor of Monday’s pro-am golf event on the golf course at the Selfridge Air National Guard Base near Mt. Clemens. The female veterans will be paired with 17 LPGA players in a scramble, and the LPGA stars will later in the week compete in the LPGA Volvik Championship at Travis Pointe Country Club in Ann Arbor (May 22-28). First, however, they will help bring awareness to the plight of female veterans.
“We’ve had great success helping veterans with “After the Impact” through the involvement of professional athletes, so the Valor Cup in a way follows that with a relationship between professional golfers and female veterans for at least a day,” Chirio said. “Only this first event, a first of a kind event, is more to help people realize female veterans face health challenges, too. We’re thankful to the LPGA players and the Volvik Championship for helping us do this.”
As an event on Selfridge, which is celebrating its 100th year as a U.S. military facility, it is not open to the public, but media is invited to tell the stories of the veterans (Media see contact person below for credentialed access).
Chirio said female veterans are an under-served group, and that a lot of female veterans don’t identify as veterans and don’t have the same access to treatment as their male counterparts.
“The Eisenhower Center is stepping forward to say we are here and we really want to treat female veterans with more female-specific programs,” she said. “Why do the Valor Cup? It will not only be a fun day for the female veterans who like to golf, but we hope it brings more awareness to bring resources to help us and more awareness to the issues female veterans might be facing.”
Chirio, who has done much of the heavy lifting in organizing Monday’s event, said the female veterans she has spoken with are excited.
“They like that it is a female-only event to be honest,” she said. “A lot of times, and especially things involving sports, are male specific. A lot of treatment programs we have treat mostly males. The women veterans actually have very similar issues to the men, but also some very different ones, and there is a stigma where when somebody thinks of a veteran they think of a man, or when they think of a military service member, they think of a man.”
Chirio said it has happened where female veterans go to a military medical facility and get asked if they are there for their husband, or asked for their husband’s social security number as the sponsor.
“It’s 2017 and we have females in military service and female veterans,” she said. “There is a barrier to break down.”
John Cornack, Eisenhower president, said the Eisenhower Center is proud to offer this opportunity and touch the lives of the women who have served our country through the philosophy of quiet strength, and he said Chirio is a perfect representative for the center and women in the military.
“She has great passion for the military and the work of the Eisenhower center,” he said.
The Eisenhower Center has a relationship with Selfridge beyond helping service members and veterans engaged at the base with treatment. Chirio, who grew up on the base when her father was stationed there and is a third-generation Army officer, said there is a strategic launching planned for a first-of-its-kind veteran reintegration center at Selfridge.
“It’s not only the 100th anniversary of Selfridge, but the Eisenhower Center plans to provide transitional treatment and help provide housing for veterans and families right on the base with vocational training and making that transition back to civilian life,” she said.
As if Chirio did not have enough on her plate as an Army Captain and medical services specialist at Eisenhower, she is also the vice-president and co-founder of the non-profit Veterans Refuge Network that works with the help of Eisenhower and others to prevent the alarming number of veterans who commit suicide – an estimated 22 per day in the U.S.
“We have brought some of these people back from the gates of Hell and helped prevent them from suicide,” she said. “We’ve taken them right from the psych ward, and taken people who are about to pull the trigger and put them through our program. It is life-saving and heartbreaking at the same time. I went to a funeral for a veteran who committed suicide last week. I do this so I one day I won’t have to do that again. I guess it is my passion and my work.”