Folds of Honor helps ‘educate the legacy’ of fallen service members

Abbie Bennett
May 14, 2019 - 9:40 am
FoldsofHonor

Courtesy of Folds of Honor

Army Maj. Ed Pulido was hit by a roadside bomb in 2004 during his third combat tour in the Middle East.

He would lose his left leg, injure his arm and hip and sustain a traumatic brain injury.

When he left the service, Pulido set his sights on furthering his education and then on nonprofit work.

Then he met Maj. Dan Rooney, an F-16 pilot in the Oklahoma National Guard intent on giving back to veterans and their families.

In 2007, Rooney and Pulido founded Folds of Honor, a nonprofit that provides educational scholarships to spouses and children of fallen and disabled service members. The two have been working to fund military family educations ever since. So far, they’ve awarded more than 20,000 scholarships.

The motto for the organization is “Honor their sacrifice. Educate their legacy.”

About 87 percent of the families the group serves don’t qualify for assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Pulido said, “we’re meeting a niche in taking care of these families … but we also take care of those who are killed in the line of duty or wounded critically because we believe everyone deserves educational support.”

Students use the scholarships for tuition, fees, tools and equipment, books and other educational needs.

“Some may use it for a lab coat, others for room and board,” Pulido said. “It’s different for everyone.”

As the cost of college continues to rise, Pulido said there is a greater and greater need for groups like Folds of Honor.

Folds of Honor makes its scholarship awards based on need and the level of disability of the service member, Pulido said, but considers other factors, too, such as awards for valor or Purple Heart recipients.

Many of the students who apply for and receive a Folds of Honor scholarship (up to $5,000, renewable up to 4 years for a total of $20,000).

“College is so expensive that even $5,000 … it just doesn’t go a long way. I wish it did.” Pulido said. “But every little bit helps."

Folds of Honor receives funding through corporate and other donations, events and contributions from foundations. Budweiser has been the group’s title sponsor for years, donating $16 million so far, Pulido said.

Pulido said the gratitude of families Folds of Honor helps, especially the children of fallen service members, is what keeps him going.

“When the kids come to you and tell you that you're like a mentor and father figure to them … and people like us are making a difference in their lives, that changes you,” he said. And that’s how you know you’re doing the right thing.”

The founding of Folds of Honor is steeped in the grief of military families who have endured the ultimate sacrifice. Returning home from his second tour in Iraq, Rooney, heard the pilot of his flight announce that the plan was transporting the remains of a fallen soldier. Passengers were asked to remain in their seats while the casket was removed.

Rooney watched as the brother of the fallen soldier walked alongside the flag-covered casket to his family, including the soldier’s son.

Rooney would thereafter dedicate his life to changing the futures of America’s grieving spouses and children.

The name, “Folds of Honor” stands for the 13 folds in a folded American flag. Each of those 13 folds as a meaning, Pulido said, and the seventh fold is dedicated to the Armed Services.

“We understand what our families and our veterans have endured,” Pulido said. “We don’t want to just give someone a flag and say ‘Thank you for your service and sacrifice.’ We want to give an educational opportunity as well. That’s what a grateful nation does. That’s what great patriots and great Americans do.”

For more information on Folds of Honor or to apply, go to www.foldsofhonor.org.

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Follow Abbie Bennett, @AbbieRBennett.

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