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“Honor their sacrifice. Educate their legacy.” That motto has inspired Folds of Honor since 2007, when Major Dan Rooney started the foundation as a means of providing educational scholarships to spouses and children of America’s fallen and disabled service members.

The total cost to provide scholarships to the 1.7 million U.S. spouses and children impacted by war exceeds $9 billion. Folds of Honor already has awarded nearly 13,000 scholarships at $5,000 each, and it is poised to change the lives of another 40 military families thanks to Associated Builders and Contractors’ recent golf tournament. The event, held in May just outside Washington, D.C., brought in more than $200,000 from ABC and nearly 20 member companies.

“We’ve never had an inaugural event be in the top five in the nation for fundraising,” says Tony Biata, vice president of Patriot Golf Day, a joint initiative between The PGA of America and the United States Golf Association. The nationwide grassroots effort allows people who want to support Folds of Honor to create a charity tournament, register a golf course or raise money independently. “We are so grateful and are going to take this money and pay it forward,” Biata says.

The connection between golf and the military stems back to when Major Rooney, an F-16 fighter pilot in the Oklahoma Air National Guard and PGA professional, returned from his second tour of duty in Iraq and witnessed the casket of Corporal Brock Bucklin being carried off the plane toward the infantryman’s young son. Seeing this heartbreaking side of war, Major Rooney committed to changing the future for grieving families. 

“In every decision you make, you can choose the easy wrong or the hard right,” says Wesley Bauguess, a veteran and Folds of Honor recipient. “Major Rooney chose the hard right when he was on that flight. He went back to his home golf course in Michigan, hosted a tournament and raised $8,513.”

Bauguess’ husband Larry was killed in action in Pakistan in May 2007, leaving behind 4-year-old and 6-year-old daughters. Today, her teenage girls are thriving in a private school with the help of a Folds of Honor scholarship, and Bauguess just released a book titled “God, Country, Golf: Reflections of an Army Widow.”

“Look at a donation to Folds of Honor as an investment,” she says. “The recipients are military kids; they know what service means, what discipline is and how sacrifice feels. Children of fallen service members drive on with a special motivation. They want to make their parent proud.”

Moved by that incredible message, 13 foursomes featuring ABC member companies, local PGA pros, Folds of Honor representatives and Capitol Hill staffers hit the links at Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Md. 

Andy Wright, president of FlorWright, Inc., traveled to the golf tournament from Tulsa, Okla., to show his support. Wright met Major Rooney in 2002, and he says it didn’t take long to “buy into his patriotism and love for our country.” Wright started FlorWright, Inc. in 2009, about the same time Folds of Honor was launching on a national scale. Though he had always supported the organization through golf fundraisers, it wasn’t until he walked into the ABC of Oklahoma office that he learned how the association had contributed to making Major Rooney’s vision a reality by donating materials and labor to build the Folds of Honor headquarters at the Patriot Golf Club in Owasso, Okla.

“From that point forward, not only did I join ABC, but I also joined the Folds mission and have been able to help the foundation through donations and volunteerism,” Wright says. “I believe with all my heart that Folds of Honor needs a big presence in Washington, D.C. Our public officials need to realize the struggles of our wounded and killed in action families.”

Sixteen other ABC member companies and several individuals supported the tournament with financial donations, and ABC extended the fundraising at its June Board of Directors meeting. Additionally, ABC of Oklahoma is working on plans for a new, larger Folds of Honor headquarters to make room for its growing staff and to house a rehabilitation facility for wounded soldiers.

“ABC has come on board to do something very powerful. We’re raising money for our military families and to make sure nobody gets left behind on the field of battle,” says Folds of Honor Senior Vice President Major Ed Pulido, whose book, “Warrior for Freedom,” documents the challenges he faced after sustaining serious injuries from a roadside bomb in Iraq. “For individuals who sacrificed their lives and their limbs, and those who come back traumatically changed, we have a vested interest in taking care of them and their families.” 

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