ST. LOUIS — It is said that freedom is not free. There is a price our American service men and women pay to protect our rights. But the price can be a heavy one.
It is what is inspired Lt. Col. Dan Rooney to take action and look out for their families. He remembers the moment the inspiration hit him.
“Was actually on a commercial airline flying unbeknownst to me on this flight we were carrying the remains of Corporal Brock Bucklin. Watched the Bucklin family on the darkest night of their lives, including his 4-year-old son,” said Lt. Col. Rooney.
The moment gave him motivation.
“I call it moments of synchronicity or chance with a purpose,” he said.
The former fighter pilot who’s been in combat three times decided to find way to give back and thank our military members for their sacrifice.
“Taking care of the loved ones who are left behind or that live with someone who is permanently disabled,” he explained.
That moment of synchronicity led Lt. Col. Rooney to start the Folds of Honor campaign.
“I started it above my garage in front of a blinking cursor on my laptop,” he recalled.
He was determined to make a difference.
“Big believer in a lot of small steps add up something bigger than ourselves,” he said.
And then, he got a big hand from Anheuser-Busch. The brewery was a difference maker for the campaign. Lt. Col. Rooney said Budweiser has donated more than $18 million to Folds of Honor so far.
Schnucks stores got on board later. He called their effort “letting people round up for freedom.”
“This is America coming together,” he said.
The money has been adding up – little steps adding up to something bigger. Since 2007, Folds of Honor has given out more than $140 million in scholarships, more than 30,000 scholarships have been awarded with the awardees getting up to $5,000 per academic year.
“Education is the key to unlocking the opportunities that this country offers,” Lt. Col. Rooney said, adding that it’s emotional meeting the families who benefit from the campaign.
The motto of Folds of Honor reads “Honor their sacrifice. Educate their legacy.” And it is now the combat pilot’s mission in life to follow through with the promise.
“People in life that do big things are emboldened with this reckless faith,” Lt. Col. Rooney said.
You can donate to Folds of Honor from your phone by texting the word “FOLDS” to 314-444-5125.