This coming Labor Day weekend, please take a moment while celebrating the holiday to think about the men and women serving to protect and defend our freedom.
Every day the men and women of our armed forces put their lives on the line so that we can safely enjoy our swimming pools, cookouts, baseball games and time with our loved ones.
When the time comes for them to come home, many return bearing the scars of combat and service. Still others come home in a simple, flag-draped coffin.
Patriot Golf Day is about these fine men and women. Should you decide to tee it up over the holiday, please do so at a participating course. Proceeds from your rounds will go to the families of those who have been injured or killed defending our great nation.
To fully appreciate Patriot Golf Day's mission, it's important for you to know how it came to be.
Brad and Brock Bucklin, twins born in Grand Rapids, Mich., were part of a family of five sons of Duane and Dawn Bucklin of Caledonia, Mich.
The boys grew up to become fine young men. Trying to find direction in his life, Brock followed his brother into the military, enlisting a year after his brother in August 2004. In the military, Brock found his way and told his father that he planned to enter officer training school and make the U.S. Army his career.
"After he got in the service, he found his way," said Duane "Buck" Bucklin.
Brock was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, and 4th Infantry Division of Fort Carson, Colo. In December 2005, he was called to service in Iraq.
On May 31, 2006, 28-year-old Cpl. Brock Bucklin was the "acting mayor" of forward operating base GABE, on the outskirts of Baqubah, 40 miles northeast of Baghdad. Just as a mayor in a town is the point person, the "mayor" of GABE was the "go-to" guy when soldiers had problems or needs.
Brock's duty was to coordinate and manage the independent contractors and support resources to address those needs. On this day, Bucklin was assigned to assist a contractor in identifying equipment for transport as GABE was closing.
The civilian contractors were responsible for moving concrete barriers, the largest 12-feet long, 6- feet high and 4-feet wide. Each barrier weighs as much as 10 tons. While they were moving them onto trailers, one of the trucks became stuck.
A cargo chain was attached between the truck and another to pull it out. As the workers stood off to the side, the chain snapped and a broken link found Brock, slicing an artery in his neck.
Medics arrived and provided treatment to Brock. Eighteen minutes later, a MEDEVAC helicopter transported him to LSA Anaconda Air Force Hospital. A half-hour later Brock Bucklin, having served only 22 months, died.
"It is a tragedy when a son or daughter dies before you. It is unnatural. It's the thing that's unacceptable and most troubling," said his father, Buck.
Brad, stationed in Germany, was allowed to accompany his brother's coffin home to Grand Rapids. Then-Capt. Dan Rooney, a PGA professional from Broken Arrow, Okla., and member of the Oklahoma Air National Guard, was on that same flight as it carried home the body of Cpl. Bucklin.
The plane landed at 11:35 p.m., and Rooney watched through the plane's window as the Bucklins awaited Brad and the coffin of their late son. Brock's son, Jacob, was clinging to the leg of his mother.
The pilot had requested that passengers remain in their seats until the remains of the fallen hero could be transferred to his family. Rooney looked up and saw that half of the passengers had left the plane. In that moment, Rooney was inspired to give back to the fallen heroes' families.
A little more than a year after the funeral, Rooney called Buck, letting him know that his son would not be forgotten, along with all the families of those who had perished or became disabled in the line of duty.
"I am an ordinary person that has been blessed with the extraordinary opportunity to be the flight leader on the Patriot Golf Day mission," said Rooney. "I simply planted a small seed which has been cultivated by PGA professionals and great citizens around the United States."
Brock Bucklin's son Jacob, now 9, is the recipient of a scholarship generated from Rooney's vision for honoring the fallen heroes, the Folds of Honor Foundation, and its largest fundraiser, Patriot Golf Day.
"It was good to know that something good came from this," said Buck Bucklin.
"There are a lot of other sons and daughters who did not come home. I'm a patriot and I have served in the military. We only have our freedom because of our military.
"Never could I imagine what it was that Dan Rooney wanted to do, but I know that my son would be extremely proud."
If you'd like to honor the memories of our fallen heroes, please do so over this Labor Day weekend by playing at a participating course. Courses and additional information are available at www.patriotgolfday.com.
James Stammer has been an avid golfer and golf enthusiast for nearly 40 years. He hosts the Thursday night golf show on WSTU 1450-AM. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.