Vietnam War veteran gets special visit from West Point cadets
By JODIE WAGNER | The Palm Beach Post | Published: February 13, 2019
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — At their final stop on a five-day swing through Palm Beach County, the United States Military Academy golf team brought a little Valentine's Week cheer to an ailing Vietnam War veteran.
Stephen Pembrook, an All-American golfer and former team captain at West Point in the 1960s, has spent the past two months at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center's Community Living Center, where he is recovering from a stroke.
In an effort to cheer him up during National Salute to Veteran Patients Week, Pembrook's wife, Mary, and his close friend, George MacClary, arranged for the West Point golfers to stop by.
Pembrook, 76, had met many of them two years ago when he was inducted into the United States Military Academy's Sports Hall of Fame at West Point, and he was eager to see them again, Mary Pembrook said.
"He lost his mother a couple of days ago, so this really boosted him up," she said of her husband, who served two tours in Vietnam before embarking on a long career as a golf professional. "He couldn't wait to see them. They're just really cool."
The West Point golf team arrived in Florida Friday for a five-day stay that included a handful of training sessions throughout Palm Beach County as well as a one-day match with the Florida Atlantic University golf team at Delray Dunes Golf and Country Club.
Before they headed to the airport Tuesday to catch a flight back to New York, the 13 players and two coaches stopped to visit with Steve and Mary Pembrook as well as VA Medical Center staff and patients.
They spent about an hour at the facility, and brought a pair of Army golf shirts to give to the Pembrooks, who live in West Palm Beach.
"We talk about legacy a lot," West Point senior Nick Turner said. "We talk about remembering where we come from and following in the footsteps of those that have come before. To be able to come back and celebrate the achievements of Mr. Pembrook and everyone else who has been here sets us on the right path to being a good officer in the future. It really gives us perspective on how to be the best officers we can be and carry on that tradition of serving others."
Pembrook, who was a three-time NCAA tournament qualifier while at West Point and remains the only golfer to be inducted into the academy's Sports Hall of Fame, was overjoyed to be able to spend some time with the cadets.
"It's a big thrill," said Pembrook, who planned on volunteering at the VA Medical Center until he had his stroke. His recovery is ongoing. "West Point was my life. (The cadets) have a chance to come down here and golf and (came to) see me. It's special. It means a lot to me."