Mike Bianchi: Honoring fallen soldiers through kids, assist from Jack Nicklaus

Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel on

Published in Golf

What a refreshing respite this day has been; a much-needed reprieve from covering the new Name, Image and Likeness world of Power 5 football, where we have been trained to believe that the value of a college scholarship means virtually nothing.

Don’t you dare spew this nonsense to the recipients of the scholarships awarded by Folds of Honor; educational grants that go to the children and spouses of military members and first responders who have died or been disabled in the line of duty.

Don’t tell it to Jurley Torian, whose husband — Marine Master Sgt. Aaron Torian — died in Afghanistan nine years ago. Their three kids, Elijah, Laura Bella and Avery, have all been given the gift of a quality education with the help of financial-aid scholarships provided by Folds of Honor.

“It’s been amazing,” Jurley says. “I work full-time as a nurse, but there’s no way financially I could give three kids the quality education they are receiving now because of the scholarships. I’m so thankful.”

I’m thankful, too.

I’m thankful that sometimes in this job, I get a chance to interview people who are truly inspiring.


I’m thankful that I got a chance earlier this week to have a conversation with Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Rooney, an F-16 fighter pilot who started Folds of Honor 17 years ago after he was emotionally moved on a commercial flight home from his second tour of duty in Iraq.

As the flight landed, the pilot announced that the plane was carrying the remains of Corporal Brock Bucklin on board. Rooney watched sadly as Corporal Bucklin’s identical twin brother walked stone-faced alongside the flag-draped casket to meet his family on the tarmac. Among the family members was Corporal Bucklin’s 4-year-old son, Jacob.

“I’ve seen a lot of terrible things as a fighter pilot in combat, but one thing you never really see is the fallen soldier’s family,” Rooney recalls. “I think I speak for every veteran and every first responder who is running toward trouble when I say that our greatest fear is if something happens to us, what happens to our family? That feeling is ubiquitous among those who serve.”

That night as he looked out the window onto the airport tarmac and saw a 4-year-old boy who would grow up without his father; that’s the night Lt. Col. Rooney decided his mission in life was to help the families of fallen heroes. That night is when the idea of Folds of Honor was born with a mission statement that would come later:


swipe to next page

©2023 Orlando Sentinel. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


blog comments powered by Disqus