Honor Their Sacrifice. Educate Their Legacy.

Folds of Honor Arizona supports veterans’ families

By Alison Bailin Batz

O

n November 11, the nation will observe Veterans Day, honoring the men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces.

But for Folds of Honor Arizona, Veterans Day is every day.

“Folds of Honor Arizona was technically founded in 2015, but our history goes back far longer than that,” says co-founder Rod Martin.

In 2007, Maj. Dan Rooney, an F-16 Fighter Pilot in the Oklahoma National Guard, was on a flight home after serving his second tour of duty in Iraq. 

“When the plane was preparing for landing, the pilot came on over the speaker and asked all passengers to peacefully remain seated even after landing,” Martin says. “The remains of a military service member—Cpl. Brock Bucklin—were on board, and they wished to carry his casket off respectfully first.”

Rooney watched as the Bucklin’s remains were carried off the plane, escorted by Bucklin’s twin brother to their waiting and grieving family members. Half of the plane had grossly disregarded the pilot’s request, bustling and moving about the cabin to de-board rather than pay tribute to an American hero who gave his life for them.

“The entire scene was devastating enough, but when he saw Cpl. Bucklin’s young son, Jacob, approach the casket, he was moved to tears,” Martin says.

He would soon learn something similarly devastating: of the 1 million-plus dependents adversely affected by deployments, nine out of 10 do not qualify for federal scholarship assistance.

Rooney was motivated to action. So, in 2010, he would form a nonprofit and name it Folds of Honor, with his mission clear: to raise funds so educational scholarships could be provided to families of heroes like Bucklin’s.

Word of the organization spread, and in 2010 Martin was invited by his son-in-law—an F-16 pilot who served with Rooney—to play in a Folds of Honor Golf Tournament through the Michigan chapter.

“It was a profoundly moving moment in my life, and motivated me to action,” Martin says.

He and friend Denny Yates already had a charity golf tournament in Arizona that donated funds each year to worthy causes.

“In 2010, Folds of Honor nationally became our cause.” Their first Folds of Honor tournament raised $30,000.

“The final piece of the puzzle came when Arizona business leader Kevin Cummings was invited by his sister to play in the Folds of Honor Minnesota golf tournament,” Martin says. “As soon as he got home, he connected with us about going beyond a golf tournament and launching a full-pledged chapter in Arizona.”

The trio recruited a board of volunteers as well as some staff, and got immediately to work, partnering with local businesses, putting on events and—of course—still hosting their golf tournament.

“We are now raising, on average, $400,000 a year, and have even loftier goals,” Martin says.

Two of their biggest fundraisers are coming up this fall. The Weekend Jetaway Music Festival featuring Lee Brice is 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, November 8, on the WET Deck at the W Scottsdale.

“The event, for which we are the sole beneficiary, will feature a combination of performers throughout the evening including local and touring country acts and DJs as well as headlining performers of national note and some other surprises,” Martin says.

Limited tickets are on sale, with general admission starting at $45. VIP tickets start at $150. Festival bundles with tickets and a stay that night at the W Hotel are also available.

And then, the first Folds of Honor Arizona Gala will place the next night on Saturday, November 9, at the Grayhawk  Golf Club. The event will feature a cocktail hour and presentation by the Basha High School Honor Guard followed by dinner and two special guests.

“Major Ed Pulido, who is the senior vice president of Folds of Honor and co-founder of Warriors for Freedom, will speak,” Martin says. “In 2004, he was hit by a road side bomb in Iraq, and it changed his life forever.”

Joining Pulido will be Capt. Suzanna Ausborn, who is retired from the U.S. Air Force Reserve. She served for 23 years as an enlisted airman and an officer serving as an air operations sergeant, aircraft maintenance, explosive safety and antiterrorism officer.

Single tickets to this event start at $300 and sponsorships start at $2,500.

For more information, visit arizona.foldsofhonor.org. 

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