LACKAWAXEN TWP. - A day on the greens with an evening of fine food is an event in this community, that honors the sacrifice of many while also ensuring their families continue their legacy.

At the Woodloch Country Club golfers and many others interested in the cause, participated in the Folds of Honor Golf Classic July 9 where John Pillar, the director of golf at Woodloch Springs figured from one day, a minimum of 10 scholarships would be awarded to families of those who have served, as they pursue their academic dreams. For each of their four years of college, the individual receives $5,000 towards their education. Pillar said, “We are never going to forget the sacrifices for our freedoms.”

More then 170 golfers participated in the annual outing, with more then 200 taking part in the dinner where Hannah Davis, a recipient of the Folds of Honor scholarship spoke and choked back tears as she spoke of her father Jeff Davis who enlisted in the Army after high school, later serving two tours as an honor guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Once her father was commissioned as an officer, he became a Black Hawk pilot. When she was 3-years-old and her brother Blake was 16-months-old, their father endured inoperable head trauma from a malfunction on an aircraft he was working on. He was 31 when he passed.

Avenue for coping

Davis told those in attendance who remained in near silence throughout the event, that when she was 12, she stood near her father when he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors after moving him from a cemetery in Michigan, where the family was from. Last year, her family revisited her father, for the first time since he was moved to Arlington and being there, she said, “felt so right” as they thought of what he had achieved but was still so young. The family has had a “unique grieving experience.” By sharing her story, Davis said that has given her an “incredible avenue for coping.”

Davis graduated from Michigan State in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in advertising and today, she works for a clothing company. Her brother is pursuing a professional golf management degree from Ferris State University. Davis’s mother eventually remarried, and she said her stepfather who is a professional golfer is able to blend the mission of the Folds of Honor with his connection to golf and is thus, able to support military families.

Means to attend college

The “reality” is, Davis said, that many kids just like she and her brother grow up without parents who served. Davis said the Folds of Honor “can mean the difference” as it allows them to attend college. Aside from assisting families financially, Davis noted that from the Folds of Honor she has another “family and support system” which she is grateful for. Those who give and support that cause are, “changing the futures and lives” of families.

A 24-year-veteran, Darrin McBurnett is a retired Navy Seal who served in over 200 combat missions in Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and more. McBurnett said it is because of “resilience” that through the hardships in life, people continue to go on.

When he first joined, he thought being a Navy Seal meant eating, sleeping and laying around. He soon learned however, that wasn’t the case and he considered quitting. But, as he endured “hell week” and the constant running, where he later lost his breakfast in the surf, he realized the importance of his peers as they carried 400-pound boats and how each one contributed in completing the tasks, so he didn’t want to let the others down.
Taking care of one another, that McBurnett said is the “secret” and makes the Navy Seals who they are, because they support each other and are “in it together” since they are “comfortable being uncomfortable.”

As the week continued and 90 percent of his class quit, starting with 87 and finishing with 14, the “monstrous task” was more more difficult because they didn’t know when the week would end. They had to “keep going” and try to care for the guy next to him. Once hell week was over, there were still 21 more weeks of training and then McBurnett had “vacation training” that lasted a year. Once complete, he was a member of a Seal team and deployed. All total, the training took two years.

During his time serving, many of his fellow Navy Seals were killed in action and he referred to those people as friends. Everyday though, servicemen and women die and because of that, Folds of Honor is a resource that supports his friends and their families. Folds of Honor, McBurnett said gives 90 cents of every dollar to a family member as they are “honoring their sacrifice.”
    
Eagle photograph

While serving, McBurnett found interest in photography and one day while in Alaska he photographed a bald eagle. The eagle, he called a “symbol of freedom” as it overlooks storms and protects its family. Thinking of that, he realized the connection he shared since that is what he and his fellow Navy Seals do and so, today he supports the Folds of Honor by selling a photograph he took that day in Alaska. To date, nearly half a million dollars has been raised for fallen service members and their families.

Although he is retired now, it is through his photography that McBurnett continues to support the families because he knows, after traveling the world that there is “nothing like America” he said. For those who take part in such events as the Folds of Honor Golf Classic at Woodloch Springs, their efforts are supporting the hardships servicemen endure.

VetStock, a local nonprofit that supports veterans, contributes every year to Woodloch’s Folds of Honor Golf Classic. This year, Tom Ryan, a founding member of VetStock, gave Pillar a $25,000 check that was attained from the sale of a home that was donated to the organization. The $25,000 donation was VetStock’s largest donation to date. Every donation given to VetStock, Ryan said, goes to a veteran and their family because the organization is “vets helping vets.”

Woodloch Pines Inc. Pillar said, has created a partnership with the Folds of Honor to be a “destination partner” where families try to reconnect at the resort after a family member is killed and they work to “get back to normal.” But the reality is, that normal is no more. Now, four to five families a year visit Woodloch through the partnership and so, the families have a vacation that would not have happened otherwise. Every year, VetStock has donated $10,000 to Woodloch’s Folds of Honor Golf Classic because each organization supports one another since its about “veterans helping veterans” and their families Ryan said.

For more information about Folds of Honor visit www.foldsofhonor.org. For more information about VetStock visit https://vetstockamerica.com/.