IF you’re with Major Dan Rooney for five minutes, you’re guaranteed to hear one word: synchronicity. He defines it as “chance with a purpose—you’re at that exact place at that exact time.”
“Think of it as God’s message—the people, the experiences uniquely placed in your life, the signs on the highway of life, hopefully guiding us,” said Rooney, a veteran F-16 fighter pilot with three combat tours in Iraq, in his keynote speech. “This world’s going at an incredible pace. You have to slow down and recognize the moments of synchronicity. But even if you recognize them, it’s meaningless unless you have the courage to have faith to take action.”
Rooney recognized his moment in 2007 after returning home from his second tour of duty in Iraq. As his flight landed, the pilot announced that the plane was carrying the remains of Corporal Brock Bucklin on board and asked all passengers to respectfully remain seated while his casket was taken off.
Rooney watched as Bucklin’s twin brother, Brad, left his first-class seat, went outside and walked somberly alongside the flag-covered casket to meet his family, including Brock’s young son, Jacob. Rooney wiped away the tears, looked toward the back of the plane and noticed that over half of the passengers had disregarded the pilot’s request and deboarded.
Rooney decided he had to do something. So when he reached his house, he went to his office and began creating what would ultimately be his tribute to American soldiers and their families. He started the Folds of Honor Foundation, a 501C-3 nonprofit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to the families of these heroic Americans. Since its founding, the organization has awarded over 7500 scholarships, including over 2000 in 2014 alone.
“This is not a red issue or a blue issue—it’s a red, white, and blue issue,” he said. “Folds Of Honor is growing because it’s grassroots and it’s viral.”
Rooney stressed to his audience the importance of all company leaders taking the time during the day to say thank you to all the people who help the operation run.
Kindness goes a long way. It’s all about making the world a better place.
“When the lights go out and this dance is done, the question won’t be about the major championships won, money in the bank account, or medals on the chest,” he said. “As human beings, God gave us unique talents. What did we do with that to make people and the world around us a better place?
“The experts, the people with all the answers in your life, these are people who can’t do it themselves and therefore tell you that you can’t. These are people who try to use fear of failure as chains that bind your life. Everybody has a fire in their soul. You have to slow down and open up and get connected with what’s in there.
“It’s such a cool metaphor when you look at a candle. The wind comes along and will blow out the candle, but a fire right next to it will be stoked. We’ve got to be that fire in life. When you put your head on the pillow at night, ask: Did I really give everything to be the best person I could be? Life is not supposed to be comfortable. It’s not supposed to be easy. It’s supposed to be great.
“For me, it’s, ‘I will be a better husband. I will be a better father. I will be a better Christian. I will push myself physically, spiritually, and emotionally every single day.’ No one can stop you. I hope you walk out of here and slow down a little bit. When you start watching the parables of your life unfold around you, understand every person and every experience placed in your path was for a reason. Don’t blow by it. Recognize those moments. The only thing I know for certain is that no one is here by chance.” ♦