They Inspire

The Purple Heart Recipient That Helped Improve Conditions At Walter Reed Medical Center

Kathryn Maloney

For Staff Sergeant Charles Eggleston, fitness is more than just physical — his long and arduous journey helped him realize this.

As a United States Army combat veteran and Bronze Star & Purple Heart recipient, Eggleston has undergone more than 50 surgeries while being in the hospital for 3+ years. Eggleston thought,

“Hey, this is like a football game. I got tackled, probably got a stinger, and it'll go away. [Except] It didn't go away.”
Photo credit: Charles Eggleston

Eggleston gave up a career in computer engineering so he could enlist in the Army, much to his mother’s dismay. Though they did not see eye-to-eye on his career choice, Eggleston knew that this is what he wanted. A few months after 9/11, Eggleston was sent to Iraq, and severe injuries later on. At one point, his injuries were so bad Eggleston truly thought he was going to die. Luckily, with the help of a lot of recovering, including help from Walter Reed Medical Center, Eggleston is still standing proud.

Not everything was bright and cheery at Walter Reed, however. Eggleston noted one thing that stood out was the “dirt” everywhere. This dirt was actually black mold and fungus, Eggleston later learned. Appalled by the poor conditions in the hospital, Eggleston decided to stand up for himself and countless other veterans who had to endure those difficult conditions, and brought it to the attention of then-President George W. Bush, which helped contribute to the “Walter Reed Scandal”.

In 2021, Eggleston became the first veteran to be inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame Hall of Heroes, something he initially thought was a joke. When they came to his door, Eggleston thought to himself,

“This is some B.S. big time, but then I saw the streets blocked off with state police and all these media trucks out there. I was like, “maybe it is real,” because I was thinking if it was one of my guys trying to make me feel good doing this, they were doing a really poor job because I'm about to get angry.”

Eggleston was still working his way through recovery when he had another high-profile visitor, PGA Golfer Jim Estes, who took him on a golf outing with the SMGA. Eggleston resisted it at first, but a little bit of betting helped him change his mind — the two wagered with each other a hundred dollars that Eggleston would fall in love with the game of golf.

On his first drive, it was clean and went straight down the fairway, which then happened again on another drive, and as Jim Estes called it, Eggleston fell in love with golf. Eggleston liked the mental challenge that golf provided, noting "it's all about the connection of fitness and mental [health].” Since then, Eggleston’s love of golf has only grown, and he credits the sport for saving his life because it helped him take back his mental and physical well-being.

“I was reborn through the game of golf and I started doing other stuff too,” Eggleston said. “All of us have a different walk. That's why you have to wrap your hands around some type of friendship and some type of fitness to succeed.”

Eggleston’s inspirational story has touched many, and hopefully, it touches you too.

Photo credits: Courtesy of Charles Eggleston