Warrior Spotlight – Herman Stocker
Herman has been there and done that; between a harrowing 13-month tour to Vietnam where his squad was wiped out in three seperate engagements, to a recovery period where he received no benefits from the VA for decades, his journey filled with ups and downs has overcome insurmountable odds. He has accomplished great feats as a competitive golfer and PGA Tour Caddy, and has been through and rose above difficult of challenges.
Alongside his friends and brothers growing up in Hopkins, South Carolina, Herman’s association with the game of golf began as young as 8-years-old when he caddied at a public course. After graduating from high school and unsure of the career he wanted to pursue, Herman decided to join the Marine Corps and went to Parris Island on March 3,1968. Six months later he entered Vietnam in September with Golf 2/9. Three days into his deployment while on patrol he was shot in an ambush.
“I was walking point for the battalion and through my experience recognizing booby traps I found 6-7 booby traps on the trail and my squad leader came up to me and said that we needed to move it up faster because we were holding up the battalion”, Herman recalled. “I saw a wire attached to the booby trap and we moved back to rear and my squad leader replaced me at point. He walked about 20 yards ahead and blew him up losing his leg and an arm. This is when the fire started.”
Herman looked around and felt something hit his right shoulder and a navy corpsman ran to him as bullets were flying all around him. The corpsman got on top of Herman to protect him and pulled him behind this tree. “My squad got wiped out. After I was wounded they sent me to navy hospital ship in the Philippines for 2 weeks.” Herman returned to Vietnam and was wounded a second time in a mortar attack. “This time a chopper was bringing in supplies at an LZ and mortars began dropping all around us,and my squad leader told me to fall back to the rear, but I never made it back to the rear”. Herman was wounded with shrapnel all over his body and his squad was decimated. During another engagement Herman escaped physically unscathed, but witnessed a third squad of his not make it out of the fight.
After his 13-month tour to Vietnam, Herman was assigned to a Casualty Company with 1st Cavalry Hospital Ship to heal up from his wounds suffered in combat. He spent 19 months in the Philippines and played golf everyday.
Healing Unseen Wounds
When he returned home, Herman was among many Vietnam-era combat veterans that were denied benefits. For 19 years he coped by doing what he thought was normal and using drugs which led to an addiction. “I knew something was wrong but didn’t know at the time it was PTSD,” Herman reflected. “I started using marijuana in Vietnam and after the military I tried cocaine and did that from 1977-1984 before I reverted to crack cocaine. I was addicted and continued until 1989. I stopped doing all drugs including marijuana in 2004.”
Golfing and caddying can’t be described together unless you have experience doing both Herman stated, however, like other older and experienced minds he said,“Caddying is about getting into the mind of the player; being a friend, a lawyer, a psychiatrist, a doctor, and a consultant at once, golfing on a good day is like being with a beautiful woman, golf on a bad day is like being attacked by your worst enemy, so it’s always a challenge”.
Expressive Art Therapy
“Fairways For Warriors introduced me to art therapy and it changed my life around because I had a lot of issues carrying around with me,” Herman recalled. “The art class helped me and it brought a lot of stuff out that needed to get out of me and it made me a better person, changed my life around,” he said.
Herman described his first session and following sessions helped relieve the negative emotions he was feeling. “The way it works is I get asked to close my eyes and to think of my experience as a picture or movie, and describe reality as it happened. Then were place the movie with improvements, what would make it better. We make it a good movie instead of a bad movie. Afterwards I felt like the gorilla was off my back and I was free. I no longer was angry or had a short temper or road rages, I didn’t want to fight anymore, all of that was erased.”
“I became a Christian in 2004 without having faith before. Ms. Rice at the beauty salon helped me find God and I fell to my knees and cried. I felt something I had never felt before, it was a revelation that God was sent through these people to me.” Herman would Usher for his church every Sunday for 10 years before a knee replacement and being diagnosed with cancer, and ultimately, surviving both bouts of of prostate cancer and colon cancer.
As of this writing (2018), Herman is 71 years old and spends his time golfing three times a week and working in Longwood, Florida, at Wekiva Golf Club with cart maintenance.