For over 10 years, Doug Bailess and his wife Claudia have held an annual fundraiser in their son’s honor to raise money for programs that help combat veterans transition back to civilian life. While they live in The Woodlands, and host the fundraiser here, the impact of the work they do reaches far beyond the Texas borders.
Doug Bailess was born and raised in Anadarko, Oklahoma, and worked with IZOD Golf and Tennis there before moving to the Houston area. In 2002, Doug’s son Braden graduated from Light Assault Vehicle driver training and was transferred to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. He was determined to become a Marine. Oorah! Sadly, Braden was in a car crash a few weeks later with several other marines and died almost two weeks later. In 2006, one of the Bailess’ neighbors organized the first Braden Bailess Memorial Tournament, which has continued ever since. More information can be found at Bailess.org
This year’s tournament on Oct. 28 had the most participants of any year and through a partnership with The Military Warriors Support Foundation gave away another mortgage-free home to a combat veteran. Doug would love to grow the tournament even more in the future. This year’s special guest was artist Joe Everson, who donated several pieces to be auctioned off at the tournament.
The Villager spoke with Doug for a Sunday Conversation to learn more about his work, his motivation, his favorite part of living in The Woodlands.
Editor’s note: Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
The Villager: How did you end up here in Texas?
DB: I was in the golf business. I started in Oklahoma with IZOD Golf and Tennis and then a job opened up in Houston, Texas, and I decided to make the move. The oil boom had busted and Oklahoma was kind of in a depressed state and I just thought that Texas might come back a little quicker so we packed up and moved to Spring, Texas… I’ve been in this area since 1987. In the Spring area is where we lived from 2001, and then we moved to Mesa, Arizona. I took a job with Nautica Golf. My son had joined the marines and was at Camp Hilton at that point. While I was out there in 2002 my son had a car accident going back to the base at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, with three other marines. One marine was killed instantly. I got that phone call at two in the morning that my son had had an awful crash and might not make it… We caught a flight as quickly as possible. My son lived about a week, 13 days total, and it just got to the point where the doctor came in and said we had to let him go… After he died we knew we would have to move back to Houston. That’s where he grew up. We buried him here in Houston… The more I got involved with the military, I knew I wanted to do more. So, I made a commitment for the rest of my life. My life now is to give back.
Villager: Did you ever expect to be doing work like this?
DB: No, I didn’t. I’ve always been a patriot. My dad landed on D-Day on the sixth day, and people ask me all the time, ‘Doug, where did you serve?’ and I tell them ‘Unfortunately I didn’t. But I serve now. I wear the invisible uniform.’ It’s my job to stand on a soap box and tell people how I feel about the military and try and get them more involved.
The Villager: What else should people know about you?
DB: I take it personally. When I speak I speak for our veterans. Those white crosses can’t talk but I can. It’s my life. They are my life… It’s my passion to give back because I’m very fortunate that I’ve been put in this situation, because I see what’s gone on. We’ve had over 2.7 million soldiers serve Iraq and Afghanistan and at lease 1 million have a physical or psychological disability, and that’s not counting the ones that have the worst injury, and that’s one that’s silent, that you can’t see. it’s our duty as Americans to serve those who have serves us.
The Villager: Tell me about your life in The woodlands. How do you like living there?
DB: It’s the best move we ever made. Where we live and our neighborhood, they’re totally behind what we do.
The Villager: What’s one of your favorite parts of The Woodlands?
DB: I think it’s the people, I really do. Wherever you go you’re going to find some bad apples but I haven’t found many bad apples in this area. It seems like there’s a lot of people that want to give back, not only to the military, but other organizations. There’s a lot of other great organizations that are in The Woodlands. It seems like a real giving community.
The Villager: How can people help you do the work that you do?
DB: They can be some of my soldiers, they can join me. My job never stops. We want to support our soldiers, but we cannot do it without more Americans becoming like i am and just being a part of giving back to our men and women that serve our country.