By Gwen Rollings
Lieutenant Colonel Dan Rooney, an F-16 Fighter Pilot in the Air Force Reserves, was returning home in 2007 from his second tour of duty in Iraq when his mission in life changed. After the flight landed, Rooney watched as a flag-covered casket was removed from the plane and directed toward a waiting family.
Among the family was the young son of the fallen hero. Rooney knew he had to do something to not only pay tribute to American service members and their families, but to live as a reminder among civilians that it is our duty to honor the sacrifices of the ones who preserve our freedoms. That same year Rooney founded the Folds of Honor Foundation.
Folds of Honor is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that has provided nearly 24,500 educational scholarships since 2007 to families of U.S. servicemen and women who have died or been disabled while on active duty. These scholarships have been awarded to family members in all 50 states and some U.S. territories.
There are more than one million disabled and fallen United States service members affected by war, nearly two million dependents of those disabled and fallen and the cost is more than nine billion to provide educational scholarships to all these dependents, according to Folds of Honor.
A local business joined the cause to raise funds for these military dependents. Sunset Grill in Ruskin held a charity event for Folds of Honor in November. There was a golf scramble, live music, raffles, silent auction and veteran services and support booths.
Scott Campbell, general manager of Sunset Grill, was enthusiastic in his support of Folds of Honor.
“There were many reasons we chose to hold the charity event here,” he said. “We wanted to show our support to the veterans and their families. We owe our veterans respect, and there are a lot of veterans in the Ruskin area. We consider ourselves to be ambassadors for Folds of Honor and anticipate a West Florida chapter forming in the future.”
Funds raised were to be distributed as local scholarships. For more information on donating or scholarship application, visit www.foldsofhonor.org.