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Labor Day Weekend Golfers Help Troops, Families

By Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
Special to American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., Sept. 4, 2009 – Air Force Maj. Dan Rooney knows that just a dollar or more added to your golf greens fees this Labor Day weekend can provide millions of dollars to help servicemembers and their families.

Rooney, a professional golfer and an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot with the Oklahoma Air National Guard, is the founder of Patriot Golf Day, a fundraiser that starts today and continues through Sept. 7.

Golfers will be asked at 5,000 participating golf courses if they want to add an extra buck to their greens fees to fund scholarships for disabled veterans and for families whose loved ones were killed in service to the nation.

American Express is matching all donations to this year’s event on their credit cards, Rooney said.

“We are very excited,” he said. “I encourage all of my brothers and sisters in arms to get out this weekend, because their country needs them, and what a neat way to get out and play golf.”

Rooney organized the fundraiser two years ago after watching the remains of Army Spc. Brock Bucklin being carried off a commercial flight. The 28-year-old was killed in Balad, Iraq, on May 31, 2006.

"It will be forever burned in my soul," he told ABC-TV’s World News in a 2008 “Person of the Week” interview. "As I walked down the jetway that night, I didn't realize it, but my life was going to change."

With the support of the Professional Golf Association and the U.S. Golf Association, commercial sponsors and thousands of Labor Day weekend golfers, he has helped raise more than $3 million for the cause.

In two years, more than 600 postsecondary educational scholarships have been awarded through the Patriot Golf Days’ Folds of Honor Foundation.

A list of participating golf courses and other information is listed on the foundation’s Web site at http://www.patriotgolfday.com.

Rooney’s efforts earned him the President’s Volunteer Service Award from President George W. Bush in September 2008.

“It’s just a small seed that I planted,” he said. “At its core, it’s all grassroots, and a lot of people have gotten on board and made sure that their local golf courses are signed up and are participating. … That’s really why it works.”

(Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith serves at the National Guard Bureau public affairs office.)

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