Rascal Flatts to play golf, music to help Folds of Honor Foundation
BY JENNIFER CHANCELLOR World Scene Writer
Sunday, May 27, 2012
5/27/2012 5:42:47 AM
"Any time I'm in the Sooner State, it's a homecoming," Joe Don Rooney said during a recent telephone interview.
The Rascal Flatts guitarist and Picher native returns to Green Country with his band this weekend, and the venue is quite a departure from the huge arenas most fans are used to seeing them in.
Rooney, Jay DeMarcus and Gary LeVox are set to play the greens in the Folds of Honor Foundation's Patriot Cup golf tournament Monday, and Rascal Flatts will headline an intimate fundraising concert at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino that night.
The Folds of Honor Foundation was founded in 2007 in Owasso by Maj. Dan Rooney, a former F-16 fighter pilot. He also founded the Patriot Golf Club and holds an annual pro-am tourney each year with golf and entertainment stars.
This year, a gala also will celebrate another Oklahoma native, musician Vince Gill, a frequent host of the golf games. He will receive the third annual Corporal Brock Bucklin Patriot Award. Past winners include former President George H. W. Bush and PGA golfer Corey Pavin.
Maj. Rooney and Joe Don Rooney aren't related, but they might as well be. They spend quite a bit of time together on charity golf tournaments for the foundation.
"No, we aren't family, at least that we know of yet. We're still researching that," he said, then laughed.
Earlier this year, Maj. Rooney said that he started the Owasso-based Folds of Honor Foundation in 2007 because there are more than a million dependents of fallen and wounded military service personnel from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts alone. He also said 87 percent of the dependents do not qualify for federal education assistance.
His foundation provides educational scholarships to spouses and dependents of soldiers killed or disabled while defending the country. Since the foundation's launch in 2007, more than 2,600 scholarships have been awarded to families, Maj. Rooney said.
The musician Rooney respects Maj. Rooney's goal.
"I actually met him through Vince Gill at a golf tournament a couple of years ago and realized what an awesome guy he is," he said. "Since then, it seems like we see each other several times a year at golf events and stuff like that.
"I love golf, too, I just love it. I'm out playing every chance I get."
But Monday's event is about so much more than golf. It's about freedom, Rooney said.
The band's done a USO tour, and it makes a point to visit with veterans at nearly every tour stop it makes, Rooney said.
"When we heard about the Patriot Cup and Folds of Honors events this year, we made sure our calendars were clear," he said of himself and his bandmates. When a band easily sells out major arenas around the globe and is in the middle of a major tour, well, that took a bit of work.
"We have a show at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville Saturday, then one in Baton Rouge on Sunday night, so Dan is meeting us in Baton Rouge to fly us into Tulsa by Monday morning because our bus just isn't fast enough," Rooney said. Rascal Flatts members will participate in the golf tournament in Owasso before performing on Monday night at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa, he said.
The band wouldn't want it any other way.
"Folds of Honor is just incredible. It works so smoothly that it seems like it's been around forever. It just runs so well. It's just so wonderful that all these families can benefit in some way from what Dan started."
Joe Don Rooney's father served in the Navy, and his brother-in-law and cousins have also served in active military.
"It's mind-blowing to go into the middle of a combat zone and see these men and women. It's very eye-opening and made us take stock on how amazing it is for us to have the freedoms we do in our country.
"As a taxpaying citizen, I feel a little guilty that I haven't served in the same facet that so many others have. We've been blessed with this musical success, and it might just be our lot in life to help these folks' reality for a while."
To be able to do it in his home state with a golf tournament and a concert for about 2,500 fans: "It reminds me of getting my start in small clubs and honky tonks. We'll definitely love getting back to a place where people are right at our feet, right by that stage. But, really, getting back to Oklahoma is the best thing for me. This (Folds of Honor) is a really good mission. ... I hope Mom and Dad get to make it down, too."