Amber: Hi I’m Amber Ambrose and this is BusinessMakers USA, brought to you by Insperity, inspiring business performance. Today we’re coming to you from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and today my guest is Major Ed Pulido of Folds of Honor. He is the VP – sorry – Senior VP of Military Relations. Welcome to the show Major Ed.
Major Ed: Well thank you so much for having me and what a great day to be an American.
Amber: Yes, I agree. Speaking of, what is Folds of Honor?
Major Ed: The Folds of Honor Foundation was started by Major Dan Rooney who is an F16 fighter pilot. He’s also a PGA golf professional and we are working with a lot of people in the golf space across the country. But the premise behind the Folds of Honor is to provide the spouses and children of the fallen, wounded and disabled educational scholarships. We’ve awarded over 16,000 scholarships to date, on pace to raise $100 million here in the coming year, and the great thing about it is that our motto is honoring the sacrifice, educating the legacy and we want to make sure that we leave no family behind on the field of battle, so help us God.
Amber: It’s something that keeps on giving, it’s not just this onetime thing; education is something that can carry them throughout.
Major Ed: That’s right and the premise to us is that I go back to the World War II veterans, the greatest generation, and this is the way I kind of look at things, but the greatest generation received the GI Bill. And in doing that this nation made a commitment to make sure that our warriors when they come back or from war when they serve our country, that they have an outlet and a connection to education. And for us at Folds of Honor it’s that same premise; making sure that when we have the applicants apply that we’re taking care of the warrior, but we also want to take care of the family member; and the family members get left behind. I truly understand how important education is to our families and certainly as an individual me and my wife of course are very, very well tuned in regards to our education and we just want our girls to have the same opportunities. And I think in this nation when you put education first and we make a difference I think that what you’ll find is that we have a productive workforce, a productive society and more importantly a society that believes in their nation and I think to me that’s what we’re all about.
Amber: Tell me more about your own personal story. I know you’ve written a book, it’s right here, Warrior for Freedom: Challenge, Triumph and Change – and it’s an autobiography – which ties into what is going on with Folds of Honor.
Major Ed: Correct and I want to just highlight one thing about that book; when I wrote it – Marie Bartlett and I, we teamed up on it – but the premise is that all of us can be warriors for freedom. That at the end of the day we have to love our nation, we have to have faith and certainly all of that will translate into making sure that we take care of our families. And so that to me is really the premise of this book is that you know what, I stand for the flag – as you can see I’m standing on one leg. And when they did that it was interesting because people were asking me why did you do that? Why not the prosthetic? And to me this is what I look like when I don’t have that prosthetic.
And you know what, I’ll stand for the greatest nation in the world and I’ll also stand up for those that have served this great country. And so for me my story really begins on August 17th of ’04 when I would hit an improvised explosive device of a roadside bomb that would change my life forever. And as I sat in the vehicle and the combat medic pulls me out and puts me on 128 degree pavement it was a bad day. The first fragment hit my knee and broke it in 3 places, fragments to the left side of my body; I was in trouble. And the thing about it is that our young service members enlisting our noncommissioned officers, the backbone of our military as I call them, saved my life on that day. They did everything that they were supposed to do and they’ve been trained to do and they saved my life.
And I’ll tell you that as I was facing death on that day the thing that I thought about was the fact that am I going to get to see my little girl back home? Am I going to see my wife? And she was 2½ years old at the time and now she’s 16 and rambunctious – a spitfire as I call her – but the thing is Caitlyn was on my mind. And as I clenched to my chest and the picture that I was carrying around – because that’s what you do, you carry a picture or you carry a focal point that keeps you going every day – to me that was it. It’s very emotional to talk about because I saw the light. And in the book I describe seeing the light but I also saw the light that at the end of the day if I died on this day in Iraq that the only thing I would expect from the American people would be the support that they would give my family and certainly understanding that we can’t make the same mistakes that we made on our Vietnam veterans on our veterans coming home today.
And to me that was inspirational, moving. And it’s interesting, you don’t think that you’re going to think about all of that stuff – the good, the bad – but at the end of t he day God had a purpose for me. And I’m here to be able to tell a story and be able to motivate others to not give up on life and more importantly be difference-makers and develop leadership principles that really take you to another level and that makes life more fruitful. I gave my leg on October 1st of 2004 and I haven’t looked back. And so for me I get up every day and I say I live in the greatest nation in the world, the United States of America, and I would do it again for the freedom that we have in this country. For what we’re doing today, what our companies, our sponsors, our supporters and whoever it is, at the end of the day we live in a free nation because someone paid a price for our freedom.
Amber: Absolutely, thank you for your service.
Major Ed: Thank you.
Amber: And part 2 of your service, Folds of Honor, getting back to that, I want to bring in the golf component a little bit more because I know it’s a huge part of what y’all do. If fact there’s a whole golf course that was made specifically for the organization, is that correct?
Major Ed: Correct. It’s called the Patriot Golf Club in Owasso, Oklahoma, it’s a beautiful place. Major Rooney and the team really went above and beyond the call of duty to make this place one that we can have our corporate headquarters at and number two that we can bring donors and supporters across the country and utilize the game of golf as a way of fellowship, of connection and of growing the game. And we work a lot with the PGA of America, United States Golf Association. We started an initiative called Patriot Golf Day, which is the biggest grass roots golf initiative in the country.
We have about 360 events across the country, we have golf courses that sign up over Labor Day Weekend and they give $1 or more in their green fee, and that’s participants. And we have millions of people that participate and play golf and we couldn’t do it without the PGA of America, the United States Golf Association; we’ve got connection to the PGA Tour. And the game of golf can be very good therapeutic wise and so I use it for my recovery, for my connection to the philanthropy efforts that we are involved with and then also connected to making sure that our wounded warriors when they come back, whether they’re dealing with suicide or other things or just mental health stressors, that this game can be very therapeutic.
Amber: Like an outlet, absolutely. So this is a business show obviously and even though Folds of Honor is a nonprofit, a 501C3, how do you guys fund these scholarships?
Major Ed: Great question. Actually we do a lot in the corporate arena. We have companies like Budweiser, the Quick Trips, Jimmy Johns, Outback. We’ve got connections to Rite Aid which is a very, very big company. And then we do a lot of philanthropy just with our Wingman program; just connecting to donors and saying here’s our story. We raise money because we are able to connect a donor with the people that we’re helping. And to me that is a powerful element of how we can do what I call these partnerships where you bring a company or a corporate citizen and you connect them to an individual. For example yesterday I was with Ben E. Keith and one of the things that I learned from them, you know 100 years of history in the corporate community but corporate citizenship and corporate patriotism and corporate connection and corporate philanthropy to me is something that our nation is all about. And it makes us unique and so as a business show I think it’s important to highlight that that’s what the safety net is all about in America.
Amber: Sure, the philanthropic community of corporate America.
Major Ed: Exactly.
Amber: That doesn’t get highlighted quite a lot.
Major Ed: Correct. And it helps people like me and what I didn’t mention – the reason the Folds of Honor really embodies the spirit of connection to me is that my two little girls are the second and third scholarship recipients of the foundation.
Major Ed: And so I like it and breathe it every day. I love what I do but I do it for them. I want them to have a great education and I want them – like Ronald Reagan said at the end of the day we have to fight for our country, we can’t just pass it down in the bloodstream. It has to be embedded in who we are. He’s my favorite president and I quote him in my book. I just feel like to me that is something that we can highlight is the fact that we are doing purposeful work today so that we can motivate and inspire our young people for tomorrow.
Amber: And just some technical things in case anybody watching qualifies for this program and has never heard of you before, what are some of the scholarships that you offer?
Major Ed: First of all you have to be 50% rated by the Veteran’s Administration and what I didn’t say is that 87% of our recipients do not qualify for educational support. Now there are programs in the government space where they’ll be able to get money to go to school, etcetera; pass down the G.I. Bill. There’s a lot of complexity to it but at the end of the day our scholarships are $5,000.00, it’s for what we call immediate use. So take an 18 year old that’s getting ready to go to school, they can apply four times for our scholarship for a total of $20,000.00 in possible dollars that they can receive from the foundation.
We also have a children’s’ program which our children’s program is for kids who have lost a loved one or are like in my condition, 100% disabled like this, and what we feel we need to do is that we need to make sure that they get to college. And so for us we take care of their private school. And if they apply we want to make sure that they graduate, they’re successful and then they’re able to use their immediate use scholarship. There’s a huge need out there so if anyone wants to help go to Foldsofhonor.org and they can reach Major Ed Pulido and I’ll tell them exactly what we’re doing, what we’re all about. And hopefully we can fund those ones that we haven’t been able to fund and that is because we just don’t have all of the resources to be able to do it.
Amber: Sure. Well you’re traveling the country trying to rally and make that happen so thank you for doing that.
Major Ed: Thank you.
Amber: It was great talking to you Major Ed.
Major Ed: Thank you so much and thank you for your inspiration but also the work you’re doing to be able to tell a story of many out there that need to be told and more importantly to the corporate community thank you for making sure that we’re not left behind on the field of battle.
Amber: Yeah, absolutely. On that note it’s going to be hard to close out. I’m Amber Ambrose, this is BusinessMakers USA coming to you from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and this is Major Ed Pulido of Folds of Honor. Thanks for joining us.
brought to you by