By LTC Scott Wales, Warrior Care & Transition OfficeNovember 20, 2008
On 17 August, 2004, Major Ed Pulido lay on the pavement under the blazing sun in Iraq next to his shattered vehicle, destroyed, along with his leg, by an IED. He knew his second tour in Iraq was over, and his life permanently changed, by that explosion.
As he heard the Medevac chopper approach his thoughts weren't about himself, but about what would happen to his family. Major Pulido had served long enough to know the myriad of services available to servicemembers through the Army and VA. If he survived the day he knew they would "never leave a fallen comrade."
Over the months that followed, multiple surgeries could not repair the damage to his left leg, and it was amputated at Brooke Army Medical Center. Months of rehabilitative therapy for body and mind followed. A quote from General Peter Pace, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stuck in his mind. He told Ed, "Always remember that on that day you did not lose a leg. On that day you sacrificed it for your country and for all in this nation to be free. "
But still there were the families. There are 33,000 injured warriors, with 24,000 dependents. No system of benefits was perfect, and Ed knew that, although medically retired, there was still a job to do.
Another Oklahoman, Major Dan Rooney, an F-16 fighter pilot in the Oklahoma Air National Guard, who had also served two tours in Iraq, had come to the same conclusion. He'd watched Corporal Brock Bucklin's casket be removed from the airliner Rooney was on and saw the cold reality of war in the eyes of his grieving family. Though he couldn't change the fate of a fallen soldier, he vowed that night to change the future of a grieving spouse or a child who has lost a parent. A golf professional, he proposed a partnership with the PGA and USGA to help raise funds for the families of the fallen through Patriot Golf Day each Labor Day.
Major Rooney set out to prove to America's heroes - our military personnel - that their sacrifices would never go unappreciated or unrewarded. From that sincere and simple wish, a foundation was born. Folds of Honor exists to ensure that families of the fallen must never endure alone. Education is the key to a brighter future, and it's the basis for Folds of Honor. They have raised millions of dollars for scholarships to spouses and dependents to attend the university or institution of their choice. On Sep 12 Rooney was awarded the President's Volunteer Service Award for the Foundation's efforts.
Folds of Honor's unique future-use scholarships can be awarded to the many young children of OEF and OIF servicemembers, invested by the Foundation on their behalf, and provided in full at the time of enrollment.
Major (Ret) Pulido now serves as the Executive Director for Folds of Honor, making sure that the maximum percentage of funds collected go to help provide additional education for the families of the fallen. People like Lisa Bugg, who is the spouse of medically retired Army Corporal Aaron Bugg, wounded in Iraq by a roadside bomb in 2004. He is 90 percent disabled, so although his school is paid for, Lisa's education is not covered. She is getting a master's degree in social work and international studies and a scholarship from Folds of Honor is helping this family make that a reality. In Lisa's words, "Every little bit helps, so it's just that much more we wouldn't have to finance and could put towards something else. Scholarships like this make you feel like you haven't been forgotten."
As Jason Ohrenberger, an Air Force Reserve officer and Senior VP with Folds of Honor points out, "The patriotism and generosity of Americans that we have seen throughout this effort is staggering. We're just happy to be a part of helping America's true heroes, the warriors and their families who keep us free."
Those who want to apply for a Folds of Honor scholarship, know someone else to encourage to apply, or learn more and join hundreds of others in putting kind thoughts about our warriors and their families into concrete action can visit Folds of Honor at www.foldsofhonor.org