On Wednesday, September 13, 2023, Folds of Honor Founder and CEO Lieutenant Colonel Dan Rooney spoke to a rapt audience of local business, government and community leaders at the Fort Worth Club, as well as to hundreds of guests who joined the breakfast event virtually from their homes and offices.
Part of the cityCURRENT Signature Speaker Series, this inspirational event was sponsored by Higginbotham, a Fort Worth-based insurance, financial, and human resources services firm, and by Hillwood, a Dallas-based multinational company with expertise across the spectrum of real estate development.
Among the dignitaries in attendance were Fort Worth city council members Alan Blaylock, Carlos Flores and Charles Lauersdorf, a representative from Texas Senator Kelly Hancock’s office, Parker County Attorney John Forrest, Texas Christian University (TCU) Chancellor Victor J. Boschini, Jr., Higginbotham Chairman and CEO Rusty Reid, Hillwood President Mike Berry, and cityCURRENT CEO Jeremy C. Park, who served as the event MC.
After an impressive rendition of the national anthem by Arts Fort Worth Executive Director Wesley Gentle and words of welcome from host organization representatives Reid and Berry, Park turned the microphone over to the guest of honor — Lt Col Rooney.
An F-16 fighter pilot and two-time recipient of the Top Gun award, Lt Col Rooney is also a PGA golf professional, USA Today bestselling author, and highly sought-after motivational speaker. He is best known, though, for founding Folds of Honor, a leading non-profit organization that provides educational scholarships to the spouses and children of fallen or disabled military service members and first responders. Since its inception in 2007, Folds of Honor has provided 53,000 life-changing scholarships totaling approximately $245 million.
During his speech, Lt Col Rooney told the story of his life from his first encounter with a fighter pilot at 12 years old to the first time he strapped in for a solo F-16 flight. He captivated the audience with inspirational insights, scriptural reminders, and a wealth of good humor. Then he moved on to the fateful day when he witnessed a flag-draped coffin return to a waiting family on the Grand Rapids, MI, airport tarmac and knew he had to do something to help such families.
“I have seen death on the battlefield and destruction that I carry with me and deal with in my own ways,” Rooney said, “but I had never seen this side of war. That night I watched the Bucklin family on the darkest night of their lives, and I knew what I had to do. We live in a complex world, but I still think it’s pretty darn simple: when people need help, you help them.”
Lt Col Rooney concluded his speech by reminding his North Texas audience that for the 2023 fall semester, Folds of Honor has provided approximately $5.5 million in scholarships to 1,163 worthy recipients in Texas alone, with 107 at the University of Texas, 141 at Texas A&M University, and 12 at TCU.
“These are your hometown heroes,” Rooney said. “These are your people. Lean in, take care of them.”
Lt Col Rooney then introduced Sarah Duncan, a past scholarship recipient who now serves as regional development officer for Folds of Honor in Texas. Duncan shared her story of losing her beloved father to an F-15 training accident when she was six and finding the support of Folds of Honor when she was a sophomore at Auburn University.
“When I say that Folds of Honor changed my life, that’s not a cliché, it’s a real truth,” Duncan asserted. “Obviously the educational scholarship was a huge financial relief, but just to know that there are groups of people — strangers — that care about the sacrifice my dad made and that our family made as well, is a gift.”
At the conclusion of the event, Rusty Reid and Mike Berry, representing hosting companies Higginbotham and Hillwood, presented Folds of Honor with a combined donation of $70,000.00 to help further the organization’s mission to support academic dreams for the families of those who sacrificed for our freedom.
As Berry said, “Folds of Honor is a unique cause that is very easy for us to support.” And as Reid added, “Sarah had us at, ‘Hello.’
“One of our core values at Higginbotham is to be generous to our communities,” concluded Reid. “Once you realize that you can help families across the country and right here at home that have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, you just have to act. As Dan graciously reminds us, ‘freedom isn’t free,’ and it’s an honor to do what we can to support our heroes.”
ABOUT LT COL DAN ROONEY & FOLDS OF HONOR
Folds of Honor is a leading nonprofit organization providing educational opportunities for spouses and children of fallen or disabled military service members and first responders. Since its inception in 2007, the foundation has provided nearly 44,000 life-changing scholarships totaling approximately $200 million.
Folds of Honor began with Lt Col Dan Rooney’s flight home from his second tour of duty in Iraq. An F-16 fighter pilot in the Oklahoma Air National Guard, he became painfully aware of the realities families face when a loved one in uniform is fallen or disabled. As his flight landed, the pilot announced they carried the remains of Corporal Brock Bucklin on board. Lt Col Rooney watched as Corp Bucklin’s twin brother walked somberly alongside the flag-covered casket to meet his family on the tarmac. Among them was the deceased’s young son, Jacob.
Since that night, Lt Col Rooney has committed his life to rallying patriotic Americans and meeting sacrifice with hope through Folds of Honor. Visit https://foldsofhonor.org for more information.