Four years ago, Major Dan Rooney was on a commercial flight shortly after finishing his second of three tours of duty in Iraq. As the plane touched down, the pilot made an announcement. “Ladies and gentleman, we have an American hero on board – Corporal Brock Bucklin – and his brother, Corporal Brad Bucklin, is accompanying him home from Iraq. As a sign of respect, please remain seated while Corporal Bucklin’s family receives him in his final homecoming.”
Rooney, an F-16 pilot with the Oklahoma Air National Guard, looked out the window as a casket was carried off the plane. Behind a fence just beyond the tarmac, Rooney could see Corporal Bucklin’s family members and a four-year old boy who would grow up without a father.
Every passenger on that flight was moved by what they witnessed, but Major Rooney was also inspired. He couldn’t get the image of that little boy out of his head.
Back home in Broken Arrow, Major Rooney decided something had to be done to help the children of America’s fallen soldiers. He founded a charity called the Folds of Honor Foundation with the aim of providing college scholarships to the spouses and children of service members disabled or killed as a result of their sacrifice to our nation. Rooney chose the name to represent the 13 folds that form the triangle shape of an American flag that is folded at a soldier’s funeral. Corporal Bucklin’s son, Jacob, received the very first Folds of Honor scholarship. Four years later, the Folds of Honor Foundation has awarded 2,000 scholarships and raised $8.5 million for the dependents of America’s fallen and disabled soldiers.
Yesterday, I couldn’t wait to get home. But as eager as I was to see my own home on a Friday afternoon, I was looking forward to an evening away from home on Saturday night…with someone who really knows how to appreciate coming home.
I met Bryan Hayes about five years ago. I had just started teaching at the school where he worked as PE coach. He did not appear to fit into the coach role. He had long hair and looked like he really hadn’t done a push up in awhile.
As a couple of school years came and went, however, I learned more and more about my friend. He could play the guitar and willingly brought it along with his mellow voice and beautiful wife to many late night functions.
He didn’t just play the guitar. He had a BAND: Bryan Hayes and the Retrievers… not so odd of a name when you know that Bryan is an animal advocate. He has a home full of rescued Labs of all shapes and sizes.
One day Bryan came to school without the rest of his hair. I thought that maybe he had gotten into trouble somehow, but nothing could have been further from the truth. Bryan had joined the Army National Guard. This spring while most of us were living somewhat normal lives, Bryan was in Iraq. This son, husband, uncle, friend, singer, and teacher was busy making sure we had a safe place to call home.
Tonight Bryan and his band stood on a stage and humbly entertained friends and family. Wait. No. He entertained family. Bryan Hayes, our brother, is home.
(Click the picture to watch Bryan and the Retrievers play “Lonesome Soldier.”)
Showcasing Red Dirt culture ~ authored and managed by contributors with connections to the great state of Oklahoma.