“There’s an old song that says, ‘After all, it’s what we’ve done that makes us what we are…’ Where I am today is a result of all of the miles I’ve walked. But GIVE – the volunteers, the organization – isn’t me. I’m just a little cog there.’” – Mike Armes


Having recently taken over as Lead GIVE Instructor at Riverside Casino & Golf Resort, U.S. Army Veteran and PGA Pro Mike Armes has indeed walked many miles throughout his GIVE journey. And he’s collected numerous accolades along the way.

Winning the 2019 Iowa PGA Patriot Award, being named Assistant Professional of the Year in 2021, joining the PGA LEAD Cohort 7…these accomplishments are incredible in their own right. But Mike says they don’t tell the whole story.

The true value of his involvement is harder to quantify.

Seeing the infectious smile on GIVE Veterans’ faces after hitting “the shot” – overcoming adversity in the name of perseverance – that’s what it’s all about.



Mike’s roots trace back to Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, where he spent his formative years before graduating high school and joining the service. Enlisting as a military policeman, he underwent training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, before being stationed in Thailand as part of the Army Security Agency.

No matter where he was, though, Mike always found time to pursue the things he was passionate about—especially music.

“When I was stationed in Thailand, actually, I was in a rock band and we opened for a couple of USO shows,” he said, recalling his time in the service.

“Then, when I was stationed in Presidio, San Francisco, I got into a country band and we did some weddings and stuff like that,” he added. “And then when I got back [to Iowa] and started attending my wife’s church, I got into a bluegrass band.”

After completing his military service, Mike transitioned to civilian life, working as a police officer and later selling insurance. It was during this time that he started pursuing another one of his passions: golf.

He chuckled, “I started working at one of the local golf courses…just so I could get free golf.”

Fun as it was, his love of the game would evolve into an exciting new career opportunity—and allow him to make a big difference in the lives of many.



Mike discovered GIVE shortly after becoming a PGA Pro. He heard about the program and how it was helping Veterans, then decided to get involved.

“I started going down every Saturday, and it soon became a priority,” said Mike.

He pointed out what made him get hooked so quickly, “When you teach somebody and you come up to them and you say, ‘well, try this and that’, and they hit that shot that they’ve never felt…their face turns to you with this big glow.”

“I mean, that’s something that I get more out of it than they do. I just love to see that joy when they get that finally get the ball right,” he added.

Fast forward a decade. Mike’s been volunteering with GIVE the entire time, taking on more responsibilities and leadership roles. He even took a position at Geneva Golf and Country Club to be closer to GIVE’s Riverside location and have enough time off to dedicate to GIVE. Sergeant Major Jim Dickerson, Lead Instructor at the time, approaches him with an incredible proposition—step up and take his place after he retires.

“That was just ready-made for me,” he said. “So, I accepted that and, last year, co-led with Sergeant Major. And then this year (2024) I took over as the Lead Instructor for Eastern Iowa.”



Above all else, Mike says he’s a teacher. His joy is derived from empowering people to achieve their goals and encouraging them to push their limits. Being a compassionate, understanding individual is the only way to succeed at it.

To help someone get where they want to go, you first have to understand where they’ve been. Unfortunately, that’s a place many GIVE Veterans wish not to return.

“I can’t imagine some of the things that they went through”, Mike said. “They’ve all got these things that they just hide.”

Though he was lucky enough not to have gone through the same type of traumatic experiences as some Veterans, Mike knows what it’s like to fight fear and isolation while navigating difficult life circumstances.

He explained, “I just recently went through a scare with cancer. And I got to tell you, when they first say that ‘C word’, you go to a very dark place…”

“That kind of gave me a little more of a feeling of what some of those go through with injuries,” he said. “And the thought of, you know, if I lost a finger, that would be devastating to me for playing music. Imagine being an athlete and losing a leg.”

Healing is a long, complicated journey. But with solidarity from people like Mike, it can be a lot less taxing. That’s why he cares so much about being there for our Veterans. Small victories, as simple as hitting a great shot, add up to make a big difference in their day-to-day lives.

“It gets you outside, it gets you walking around…” he said. “And so you’ll see people that’ll start to open up a little bit. And especially being around the Veterans, like I said, their guard comes down.”

“And it’s fun,” Mike added. “Golf is a game for anybody. Some people go out there and don’t even keep score. Some of us pull our hair out…and some show up for a fundraiser, knock the dust off their clubs, have some beers and just enjoy the day.”



From his time spent in the military to his recent promotion to Lead GIVE Instructor, Mike’s journey is without a doubt impressive. But like he said, it’s not about him.

It’s about retracing his steps – harnessing the power of all his past accomplishments, memories, and lessons learned along the way – to help envision a brighter future for GIVE.

He’s off to a great start.



When it comes to supporting our Veterans here in Iowa, there’s always more work to be done. We need your help to advance our mission of providing our Veterans with the empowerment, camaraderie, and accessibility they deserve.

Explore our website and follow us on social media to learn more about the GIVE community and how you can support our mission.

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