On July 1, Charlsey Foster of Ada found out how she would spend part of her Fourth of July weekend -- in front of thousands of people at a Tulsa Shock basketball game at the BOK Center.
The incoming East Central University freshman was introduced during halftime on July 3 as a recipient of a $5,000 Folds of Honor Foundation scholarship. The foundation, a bank and radio station were honoring Hometown Heroes -- veterans and military, police, fire and law enforcement personnel -- who had received free tickets to the Shock's game with the Washington Mystics.
Foster, accompanied by her mother Gina and sister Bre, was introduced on the court with five other scholarship recipients by retired Maj. Ed Pulido, the foundation's senior vice president of programs and veterans affairs.
"It was pretty cool," Foster said. "Major Ed talked and they showed a video (about Folds of Honor).
Charlsey Foster (third from left), a freshman at East Central University, is the recipient of a $5,000 scholarship from the Folds of Honor Foundation. Meeting with her are Jill Williamson (from left) of ECU's Veterans Upward Bound Program; retired Maj. Ed Pulido, the foundation's senior vice president of programs and veterans affairs; Gina and Bre Foster, Charlsey's mother and sister; and ECU President John Hargrave.
Receiving the scholarship comes at a steep cost. Folds of Honor scholarships go only to children and spouses of military servicemen and women who were killed or disabled while serving their country.
Pulido had served 19 years in the Army before he was injured in Iraq in 2004 and lost his left leg. His two young daughters were awarded future-use scholarships by the foundation.
Pulido traveled to ECU in Ada on July 1 to meet Foster and talk about the foundation.
"This is an award for you, but it's for what you sacrificed," Pulido told her.
Foster's father, John Foster, received severe injuries in Iraq in 2005 as a Navy Seabee attached to a Naval Mobile Construction unit. He is rated by the militarily as permanently and totally disabled. He previously served in Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
"John was an ECU employee and participated in Veterans Upward Bound. He was an ECU student but he had to withdraw in his first semester when he was called up to go to Iraq," said Jill Williamson, an academic counselor for ECU's VUB program.
"I told Charlsey about this scholarship. Her dad was trying to help her get ready to come to ECU and wanted to make sure we would watch out for her," she said.
The scholarship is renewable, and her sister, Bre, a sophomore at Ada High School, also will be eligible for the scholarship, Pulido said.
Because of their father's disability, the sisters are eligible for some education assistance from the Veterans Administration, but getting a college education would have been harder without the scholarship, Charlsey Foster said.
"This is just awesome. It's a true blessing. It will help me get my degree and help me buy art supplies for my classes" she said.
Foster, who plans to major in graphic arts at ECU, said her father helped her fill out the paperwork for the scholarship.
"He made sure his baby was taken care of," she said. "He preached to us since we were little, 'Go to college.' He was always on top of us about our grades. Our homework had to be done by a certain time.
"He'd say, 'Stay away from boys. Boys are icky. Focus on your schoolwork.' He's awesome. I love him."
FHF scholarships can be use when awarded or held by the foundation on behalf of young children until they enroll in a college or vocational program. They can be used for about any appropriate educational expense.
"The Folds of Honor Foundation is only four years old," Pulido said. "We've raised $5.3 million and given out 1,300 scholarships."
The FHF works with the Women's Basketball Association and received $1 from every ticket sold for the Tulsa Shock game.
Most of the funds have been raised by golfers participating in Patriot Golf Day, the flagship fundraiser since 2007. On Labor Day weekend, golfers across the country are asked to add at least $1 to their greens fees at participating facilities to support the foundation's mission.
The PGA of America and the United States Golf Association are founding partners of Patriot Golf Day.
The Folds of Honor Foundation, based in Owasso, was founded in 2007 by Maj. Dan Rooney, a decorated F-16 pilot in the Oklahoma the Air National Guard, a golf course owner, PGA professional and USGA member.
After returning from the second of his three combat tours in Iraq, he witnessed a profound situation that drove him to create the Folds of Honor Foundation.
He was a passenger on a plane carrying the remains of a soldier who had died in action. The soldier's twin brother, also a soldier, was accompanying the flag-draped casket, and the pilot asked the passengers to remain seated to honor the soldier's sacrifice. Rooney watched as the casket was lowered from the plane and met by the family.
Rooney said he had to choke back emotion when he saw the soldier's young son clutching at his mother's leg. He vowed to make a difference.
Even though he couldn't change what happened to a fallen soldier, he could change the future of his widow or child through education. He could prove to military personnel that their sacrifices would never go unappreciated or unrewarded.
More information about the Folds of Honor Foundation is available at www.foldsofhonor.com.
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