Folds of Honor: Giving Back to America’s Fallen Heroes
By heeding to a higher call, one man’s mission is helping to ensure no family is left behind on the field of battle.
Honoring our fallen military heroes is the least we can do for their ultimate sacrifice. But so often, their valor has been overlooked as we fully engage in the very freedom they fought to protect. Defenders of our liberties, many leave behind families who not only suffer the loss of their loved one but have an uncertain future ahead of them.
In 2007, Major Dan Rooney sought to change this indifferent attitude and help military families when he founded the Folds of Honor Foundation. The non-profit provides scholarships to spouses and children of severely disabled veterans or those killed in action. The organization creates a legacy for the fallen, helping to ensure the continuing education of the loved ones they left behind.
A Light in the Darkness
To know the impact the organization is having is to hear the stories of Folds of Honor families. At a time of devastation, Folds of Honor helps bring closure for these families’ educational concerns and provides support in other ways. You can listen to some of their stories on the Folds of Honor website. Here is Sarah White’s story:
The folded flag is used as the Folds of Honor logo, a symbol representing the organization’s mission to honor fallen American military heroes while reflecting a legacy of hope for their families. Receiving the highest performing non-profit rating on GuideStar and Charity Navigator, Folds of Honor scholarships have been awarded in all 50 states, including Guam, Puerto Rico, Australia, Philippines, Germany, Ecuador, United Kingdom, and Italy.
The organization helps fill the financial gap of over a million dependents who are adversely affected by war. Folds of Honor awards two types of scholarships: the Children’s Fund Scholarship that serves K-12 students enrolled in a private school or tutoring service, and the Higher Education Scholarship for those pursuing a bachelor’s degree or certification in a post-secondary institution. The foundation has raised nearly $120 million since its founding, with 89 percent going directly to the scholarship program.
Embracing the Call
Growing up, Rooney dreamed of being a champion golfer and a fighter pilot. He has been blessed with both, as a top gun flying F-16 missions in three tours of duty in Iraq and becoming a PGA Class A professional. He could have comfortably rested on his laurels, unaware the mission of a lifetime awaited him.
One day, while on a civilian aircraft, he saw the homecoming of a fallen hero’s flag-draped coffin being brought to a grieving family. The solemnity was broken by passengers scurrying to get off the plane. The contrast could not have been starker, the painful loss endured by a military family’s commitment to freedom while simultaneously, that same freedom being enjoyed by travelers and their families.
It was in that moment of witness, the pangs in his heart for his fallen comrades stirred the idea of Folds of Honor. He would dedicate the rest of his life to champion a cause, helping to ease those bereaved families of his lost brothers in arms. He started his new mission in a room above his garage. Thirteen years later, there have been over 24,500 scholarships awarded. In 2019 to 2020 alone, over 2,400 scholarships totaling over $22 million have been awarded. Learn more about the folds of Honor mission by watching this short video:
In 2009, land in Rogers County, Oklahoma, was donated to the Patriot Golf Course, LLC, of which Rooney was a founding member. He contacted potential members, giving tours of the land that would become the Patriot Golf Course. Designed to “be bold and test a player’s skill and resolve,” the 19-hole course opened in 2010. At 1300 hours, activity at The Patriot pauses to hear taps played and reflect on those who sacrificed their all for the freedoms we enjoy. The Patriot has been voted the Best New Private Club by Golfweek and ranked as one of the Best Modern Golf Courses in America.
A Man of Substance
Rooney is the author of two bestsellers, A Patriot’s Calling: Living Life Between Fear and Faith and Fly into the Wind: How to Harness Faith and Fearlessness on Your Ascent to Greatness. He appears on various news media and hosts the Fly into the Wind series on Fox Nation.
A decorated veteran, Rooney is the recipient of multiple awards and commendations. He received two Top Gun awards and was honored as a top graduate of F-16 training with the Spirit of Attack award. President George W. Bush presented him with the White House Presidential Volunteer Service Award. He also received the Air National Guard Distinguished Service Medal and Directors Service Award, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and the Oklahoma Medal of Freedom.
For Rooney’s outstanding contributions to golf, he was presented the William D. Richardson Award at The Masters Invitational and received the first-ever Patriot Award by the PGA of America. People magazine listed him in their Heroes of the Year. Money magazine dubbed him Hero of the Year, and he was named among the Persons of the Year by ABC World News and World Tonight.
Rooney believes Folds of Honor is his life mission. In an interview with Experience Life, he says, “I look at flying fighters and being a PGA golf professional as what I do, but Folds of Honor is who I am. It’s what drives me. This work has taught me to focus on others. When your daily energy is directed at supporting people in doing or achieving something they didn’t think was possible, it’s so rewarding.”
Rooney sets an example for us to heed the call in doing great works for the benefit of others. A quote by Teddy Roosevelt posted on the Folds of Honor website sums it up best, “Far better is it to dare mighty things and risk failure than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” To find out more about Folds of Honor and how you can help, visit foldsofhonor.org.
Photos: Folds of Honor