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Folds of Honor Foundation to Pay Homage to Fallen Indianan
PGA of America secretary Ted Bishop had never met Sgt. Gary Henry, a decorated Indianapolis Fire Captain, and who in the summer of 2008 became one of this country's many fallen heroes.
Having read a news report of Henry's death, the result of a roadside bomb in Iraq on August 4, 2008, Bishop suddenly began to feel a little closer to the popular veteran whose life's work and sense of humor touched so many.
The general manager at the Legends of Indiana Golf Club in Franklin, Ind., Bishop read the newspaper report after returning from the 2008 PGA Championship. After learning that Henry's survivors included his wife, Regina, daughters Shelby, 15, and Ashtyn, 8, and a son, Gavin, 11, Bishop got an idea to help the family. He thought of Patriot Golf Day, the major fundraiser for the Folds of Honor Foundation, and its ability to administer scholarships to the families of veterans who either perished or were wounded in the line of duty.
"Can Folds of Honor help this family?" Bishop asked. He later contacted Maj. Ed Pulido, vice president and executive director of the Folds of Honor Foundation. Bishop then went a step further, scheduling a visit with Maj. Gen. Martin Umbarger, the adjutant general of the Indiana National Guard. During that visit, Bishop learned that there were 17 other Indiana National Guard families who have lost loved ones in the Iraq or Afghanistan conflicts.
"I'm a PGA member, am aware of a tragedy affecting a local family, and I know the great work and spirit of the Folds of Honor Foundation and the efforts of Patriot Golf Day," said Bishop. "If I could send a message to all PGA of America members and apprentices, it would be simply that my circumstances are not unique. You don't have to have a personal relationship with a veteran's family, but you will find that you can develop a very gratifying life experience through connecting through Patriot Golf Day."
The ceremony honoring Sgt. Gary Henry and his family will be held Monday, March 9, in conjunction with the Indiana PGA Section Spring Meeting at the Holiday Inn North in Indianapolis. Bishop is encouraging PGA professionals to do what he has done in Indiana - to establish a relationship with a person in one's community who would have a connection with the affected families of veterans.
That person, said Bishop, could serve as the liaison to work with the Folds of Honor Foundation. And the liaison would know when the time is best to contact a grieving family.
"Secretary Bishop has set a great example for all PGA members to follow," said Major Dan Rooney of Broken Arrow, Okla., a PGA professional and the founder of Patriot Golf Day, who will attend the Indiana PGA ceremony. "The PGA of America is 28,000 strong and if we truly unite we can positively impact of lives of thousands of military families. In the spirit of our nation's armed forces, we must ensure no family is left behind on the field of battle. I am truly inspired and grateful for Ted's and my fellow PGA members' noble commitment to the cause."
Maj. Pulido echoed Rooney's comments, adding, "The PGA of America, USGA and the [Folds of Honor] Foundation are thankful for the opportunity to empower our country's bravest families with educational opportunities and support. As I always say, our families deserve it, our community and nation expect it, and with the PGA professionals around this nation we stand to deliver on the promise."
PGA Honorary President Brian Whitcomb of Bend, Ore., the secretary of the Folds of Honor Foundation, said that the effort to connect a PGA professional with the families of fallen or wounded veterans is similar to another key PGA initiative. "What PGA members are doing in places like Indiana is a lot like the early stages that we took to promote Play Golf America," said Whitcomb. "We have to create a 'sales force' among sections to reach out and identify those families in need of scholarship assistance. What Folds of Honor provides is a vehicle for members to get in touch with the families of those who served our nation so well and valiantly.
"It also works both ways. Families have to ultimately find Folds of Honor, which exists to help the next generation of children. We all have to take a deep breath and think about the heroic work these men and women soldiers have made to secure our freedoms. There are sons and daughters who need the help and many of them will not be of college age for many years. Folds of Honor's mission is just beginning, and it will not end when troops are returning home."
Bishop said not many understand that benefits to wounded veterans or families who have lost loved ones are not lifetime benefits. "Sometimes the assistance stops," he said. "And, that is where Folds of Honor and Patriot Golf Day steps up."
Over the past five years, Maj. Gen. Umbarger has made seven trips to visit members of the Indiana National Guard in combat zones - including four visits to Iraq and three to Afghanistan. Umbarger said Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has made two trips each to both wartime theaters.
"I was there when Sgt. Henry's company deployed for Iraq," said Umbarger. "I don't remember meeting him personally, but I'm sure that during the time spent that day I must have shook his hand. Now, I have come to know his family.
"It is truly wonderful how this program, in association with the PGA of America, has worked to help the families and assist children in higher education. I play golf myself and I can tell you how proud I am to golf. When the veterans who return come home and see an organization like The PGA help them like this, it is the ultimate. It means everything. The pride they feel and just feeling that their job does not go unnoticed has meant so much it is hard to put into words."
As the Henry family prepares for the ceremony in Indianapolis, Regina Henry reflected upon the support that she and her daughter, Ashtyn, along with her late husband's other two children, have had from their community. "It is warming to know that we are not in this alone," said Regina. "Gary was someone who touched the lives of so many people. He was beyond a super hero. To have an outpouring of affection and support is tremendous. This effort [by the Folds of Honor] is great and gratifying."
PGA professionals interested in assisting veterans' families within their respective PGA Sections that may qualify for scholarship assistance, should contact Maj. Ed Pulido, Senior Vice President and Executive Director of the Folds of Honor Foundation, at 918/494-8823, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Folds of Honor Foundation (www.foldsofhonor.org) will assist in helping members in each Section to connect with their local National Guard or Reserve unit.