AKRON, Ohio — Charlie Morris survived a gunshot to the head while serving in Vietnam in 1971. He figured out how to thrive despite paralysis on the right side of his body. The Navy veteran beat malignant melanoma in 2007. Now at the age of 72, he continues to prove his doubters wrong on the golf course.
"This is the thing that was dealt to me and I tried to make the best of it," Morris said.
Morris was on board a Seawolf Naval helicopter as a crew chief and door gunner when a sniper took aim at the chopper over the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.
"I was shot in the head during a mission," Morris recalled. "Somebody came out of the last little hooch with an AK-47 and opened up on us."
Morris fell out of the helicopter and flew suspended for 10 to 15 minutes before he was lowered to a base.
"When I came to, I was outside the helicopter hanging on a strap."
The injuries were devastating. He suffered brain damage and his right arm was permanently paralyzed.
However, Charlie was determined to make the most out of his life. He got stronger at a Cleveland VA hospital before attending Kent State University in 1972. He graduated in 1977 and became a marketing teacher at Stow-Munroe Falls High School.
Only having one useful arm also didn't stop Morris from finding a way to play golf, a sport he enjoyed before the war.
About 15 years ago, he began working with PGA professional Ron Tristano at Cleveland Clinic's Challenge Golf Course in Akron.
"I taught Charlie to play golf one-handed with his left hand from the right position," Tristano said.
Challenge Golf Course helps people with brain injuries or other disabilities return to golf or learn the sport.
"Charlie Morris is terrific," Tristano said. "He's such an inspiration."
Morris can generate enough power with his left arm to hit the ball up to 150 yards and he often scores in the 50s for nine holes.
"I'm trying to hold onto golf as long as I can," Morris said.
Morris has been married for 53 years and has one son and two grandchildren.
He often brings his grandson Logan along to golf. During a recent game, Logan started to inquire about his grandfather's war story.
"I never knew the true story about you getting shot in the back of the head," Logan said while riding on a golf cart. Morris responded "Oh, yeah," and then pointed to area of the injury.
Morris has also written "Just a Regular Guy," a book which details his experience in the Vietnam War and his life afterwards.
He plans to keep swinging and working with Tristano for as long as he can.
Despite the enormous challenges he has faced over his life, Morris now considers his disability a blessing.
"Somebody asked me if I could trade, go back and not be disabled, if I would and I don't think so," he said. "I've met some really really wonderful people."