The West Chester, Pa. club and its members raised more than $7,180
for the Folds of Honor Foundation on Labor Day weekend. The Folds
of Honor Foundation raises money for post secondary educational
scholarships for children and spouses of military service men and
women killed or disabled in action.
bout a month after returning from his second tour of duty in Iraq in
2005, Major Dan Rooney, an F- 16 pilot in the Oklahoma Air National
Guard, boarded a plane heading from Chicago to Grand Rapids, Mich.
On the way to his seat, Rooney passed an army corporal in dress greens
sitting in first class.
Rooney’s first thought was what a nice gesture it was for the flight crew to
bump the young soldier up to first class. After the plane touched down, Rooney
sat and listened as the captain requested that the passengers remain seated
while an American hero on board exited first.
The pilot informed those on the plane that they had transported the remains of
Corporal Brock Bucklin some 6,000 miles from Iraq to his home in Grand Rapids.
The young soldier in first class was Corporal Brad Bucklin, Brock’s brother.
Rooney sat with the rest of those on board for 40 minutes and watched as
the coffin, draped in an American flag, was moved from the plane to the soldier’s
grieving family, including his 4-year-old son.
Rooney, himself a father of four, admitted that witnessing the tragedy of war
in that regard for the first time not only changed him forever, but compelled him
to give back.
He established the Folds of Honor Foundation and turned to his other profession to raise money for post secondary educational scholarships for children
and spouses of military service men and women killed or disabled in action.
A PGA professional and former mini-tour player who now owns The Patriot,
a private club outside of Tulsa, Okla., Rooney founded Patriot Golf Day in 2007
with the goal of getting every golfer at participating courses across the country to add $1 to his or her green fees during Labor Day weekend, which can
be donated to the Folds of Honor Foundation.
In 2010, more than 4,000 golf courses across the country combined to raise
a record $3.2 million, lifting the four-year total to nearly $9 million. Hershey’s
Mill Golf Club in West Chester, Pa. was one of those 4,000-plus participating
clubs, although its’ contribution was minimal, said members Fran Robinson
and Rick Blankley.
“It was just kind of done haphazardly,” said Robinson. “It was kind of thrown
together and I think we probably only raised a few hundred dollars. This year
we decided to do something a little more orderly.”
In early 2011, the club, committed to making a more meaningful contribution,
formed a Patriot Golf Day committee. Chaired by Blankley, the group also in-
cluded, among others, Robinson, who serves as the club’s men’s golf chairman,
Maryellen Holden, the ladies’ golf chairman, Sam Arcana, the club’s treasurer,
and Matt Harvey, the club’s head PGA professional.
Another Hershey’s Mill member, Dave Rodriguez, spoke to his son about
the club’s desire to raise a significant amount for a cause Rodriguez could relate to. His son, Lieutenant General David Rodriguez, was then second in command of the U.S. Armed Forces in Afghanistan to General David Petraeus. After
Lt. Gen. Rodriguez listened to his father, he sent the club a flag that flew over
Kabul, Afghanistan. The flag, complete with its triangular case adorned with
brass stars and set upon a wooden base made by another Hershey’s Mill
member, became the trophy for the club’s Patriot Golf Day stableford event. It
now features the names of the male and female winners from this year’s wildly
successful staging and is displayed in the club’s trophy case.
More than 120 members contributed on Sept. 3 to raise an astounding
$7,180 for the Folds of Honor Foundation, a total believed to be the highest
among the 26 participating Golf Association of Philadelphia clubs and among
the highest in the country, according to Robinson.
Each member was asked to donate $25, for which they received coupons for
a free guest pass and half-priced drinks at the club.
“I’m just overjoyed that the club was able to raise so much money,” said
Blankley, himself an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam. “It’s a great feel-
ing to see our members and residents come through with flying colors. That
makes me feel good and that’s what it’s all about.”
Robinson participated and played alongside two special event guests: Bob
and Cal Fastuca, the father and uncle, respectively, of West Chester resident
Sergeant Louis Robert Fastuca, who died while serving in action in Afghanistan
on July 5, 2010.
Robinson, an Army veteran who was stationed at Fort Dix, N.J. during the
Cuban Missile Crisis and later served in the Pennsylvania National Guard, cited
the club’s senior membership – many are retirees living in the Hershey’s Mill
community surrounding the golf course – for the event’s success.
“Our membership is made up mostly of older people and some of those
served in the armed forces, so they appreciated what we were trying to do for
the families of these soldiers,” said Robinson. “I believe people in the club, in
retrospect, looked at what transpired when soldiers came back after Vietnam
and I think they thought that some things could have been done better to show
some more appreciation for soldiers, their families and the innocent people who
are affected by the tragedy of war. I can’t speak for everybody, but I believe that
there was just a feeling of wanting to do something better this time around.”
Robinson also applauded the exceptional support received from the staff at
Hershey’s Mill and, along with Blankley, is eager for continued growth year
“It’s my hope that this was not a one-year event, that this hopefully will
become a permanent fixture at Hershey’s Mill on the Saturday preceding Labor
Day for many, many years to come,” said Blankley.
Cal Fastuca (L) uncle, and Robert Fastuca, father of Sergeant Louis Robert Fastuca, who died while
serving in action in Afghanistan on July 5, 2010.
Nate Oxman is a freelance writer and the editor of phillygolffiles.com.
He's a resident of Havertown, Pa.