If laughter is indeed the best medicine then count David Feherty among the all-time comic miracle workers, not that the Ultsterman-turned-American’s biting schtick is easily digested by the uninitiated.
What Feherty lacks in political correctness he compensates for with cringe-inducing punch lines – as evidenced by a passing introduction to one of the members of his famed “f troop” in 2009 at the AT&T National event.
“Never throw to anyone who can’t catch, which is why you should never, never throw to Bobby,” Feherty says with a nod in the multiple-amputee’s direction.
“Bobby” – which is jab at the soldier’s swimming abilities, not his real name – begins laughing uncontrollably and Feherty moves on to the next victim. Or is it his next patient?
Although some might struggle with Feherty’s methods, his madness is beyond reproach. Ever since 2007 when the CBS analyst made his first USO trip to Iraq he has been driven to making life better for America’s wounded warriors. And if that means making one the members of his “f troop,” many of whom are special forces with devastating battle-related injuries, a punch line then so be it.
Ferherty, who grew up amid the violence of Northern Ireland (“Going to Bagdad was like going to Belfast with worse weather,” he says.), is uniquely suited to help acclimate wounded warriors back into society. That is to say he is unburdened by the delicate filter many struggle with when introduced to a multiple-amputee fresh from battle.
“He shows these guys no mercy and they love it,” says Rick Kell, the co-founder of the Troops First Foundation, which now includes Feherty’s “f troop.”
A former advertising executive, Kell created T1F four years ago after a visit to Walter Reed Medical Hospital outside Washington, D.C. He refers to the foundation as his “calling.”
“(Kell) basically went through his entire personal savings just working for and with these soldiers,” Feherty said.
With the help of Feherty, Kell’s foundation, known simply as T1F, now features a series of IEDs, or Improvised Explosive Days. Feherty’s groups goes on bike rides, hunting trips and golf tournaments, like the one held this year at Chevy Chase Club in Maryland.
“People aren’t aware there are men like this around,” says Feherty, who became a U.S. citizen in April 2010. “I’ve got a lot of Green Berets in my f troop. It’s impossible to describe how incredibly committed they are. I have three that are going to be redeployed 18 months after losing a limb.”
Feherty was among another group of celebrities and golfers bound for Iraq this Thanksgiving and he has become a member of the T1F’s executive board, but his true passion is for his six IED events, particularly the now-annual cycling event held this year in April in Hilton Head Island, S.C.
The event combines Feherty’s passion for cycling with his goal, or maybe it’s his gift, of making wounded warriors feel comfortable again, despite their often severe injuries. It’s not always an easy combination given the physical limitations of many of Feherty’s “f troopers,” but both groups seem to make the most of the opportunity.
It also may be where Feherty, the funnyman healer, is at his biting best. During the 2009 IED cycling event in Maryland Feherty’s arms waved wildly as he described the scene, even calling over a member of his “f troop” to make a point. “Here’s Ferris, a guy with no legs. We call him Tupperware,” Feherty deadpans.
It is not insults, it is Feherty’s cutting art of inclusion.
“Ferris Butler, he has no legs and completed 22 miles (on a bike),” Feherty says with a proud smile before adding. “A guy with no legs did this. I told him, ‘Ferris, I need you to fall off. A guy with no legs, falls off a bike, it’s just funny. I don’t care who you are.’”
Nor does Feherty care who he offends, because he knows the best way to make what he calls “his guys” feel normal again is through comedy. And nobody does that better.