Budweiser Clydesdales deliver scholarships to Maryland family of soldier killed in Iraq

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The Iconic Budweiser Clydesdales (Anthony C. Hayes)

An appearance by one of Budweiser’s iconic Clydesdale wagon teams is always considered a highlight of holiday parades.  But the exquisite workhorses were in Laurel Tuesday to deliver a cargo more precious than the fabled King of Beers.

The team left the Laurel Volunteer Firehouse on Tuesday afternoon and traveled a few blocks to a home on Farnham Lane.  There they delivered two Folds of Honor scholarships – each worth $5,000 – to the children of Sergeant First Class Floyd D. Lake.  The scholarships are in honor of their father’s bravery and service.  Sergeant Lake died in the northeast “Al Jadidah” region, Iraq, while on a reconnaissance mission on January 20, 2007.

Sergeant Lake’s widow, Linda, told the Baltimore Post-Examiner she was excited and very happy for her children.  “These scholarships will be greatly useful.  André has been accepted to Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia.  He plans to major in engineering.  Tamila is just a freshman in high school, so she has a few years to make her plans.”

SFC Floyd E. Lake died in Baghdad while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“Nothing can replace (my husband), but we are very grateful to Budweiser for their generosity.”

Since 2010, Budweiser has raised more than $5 million for the Folds of Honor Foundation and provided more than 1,000 educational scholarships to the families of service members who have been killed or disabled.

This year the brand has already kicked in $500,000, and it will donate up to an additional $1 million in proceeds from the sale of its beer.

The Folds of Honor Foundation is the brainchild of Major Dan Rooney.  The name hearkens to the sacred flag-folding ritual known to most Americans from military funerals.  A former F-16 pilot in the Oklahoma Air National Guard, Rooney said he started the foundation in a room above his garage in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.  But the inspiration stemmed from an encounter he had while returning from his second tour of duty.

“I was on a plane with a corporal named Brad Bucklin.  Brad was bringing his identical twin brother, Brock Bucklin, home from Iraq to be buried.  As the coffin was unloaded, I watched the procession of this grieving family.  This was a side of war I had never witnessed before.”

Scholarship recipients Tamila and Andre Lake.
Scholarship recipients Tamila and Andre Lake. (Anthony C. Hayes)

Rooney told the Baltimore Post-Examiner that he has been humbled by the outpouring of support from individuals, along with companies such as Budweiser, but notes there are more applicants than there are available funds.  Rooney said there are approximately one million dependents of those service men and women who have either been killed or permanently disabled.

“It’s about awareness; about seeing a need and stepping up.  When you share the message, it helps other families who may have had a loved one disabled or killed.  The irony is that many of these families are too proud to ask for help.  The response from a lot of them is, ‘There are plenty of families out there that are hurting more than us.’”

Remembering the hurting families of the dead and disabled has also become a mission for Rocky Sickmann, the Director of Military Sales for Anheuser-Busch.  Sickmann’s involvement with Folds of Honor is not only heartfelt, but it carries a profound personal connection.  As a U.S. Marine on duty in 1979 at the embassy in Tehran, Sickmann was one of 52 Americans held hostage for 444 days in Iran.

koppel nightline“The whole time I was being held, I was sure I had been forgotten.  Remember, it was 1979.  The picture I had in my mind was that of the Vietnam veterans who were spat upon when they returned.”

Sickmann said he had no idea that back home, the plight of the hostages was front page news; that Ted Koppel would report the latest word on a nightly broadcast specifically produced to cover the crisis.

Sickmann also had no clue how his loved ones were dealing with his captivity.

“I was isolated, so I couldn’t know what my parents were thinking.  My father was a truck driver.  He told me, when I got back, that there were times he would drive by familiar stops, (because) he was so worried and lost in thought.”

After the presentation to the Lake family, Sickmann said he was preparing to remember one more group of fallen heroes: the eight servicemen who died in the failed venture to rescue the 52 hostages.

Neal B. Katcef, Linda Lake, Major Daniel Rooney and Rocky Sickmann. (Anthony C. Hayes)

A memorial honoring the eight Americans who lost their lives in the rescue attempt (known as Operation Eagle Claw) is located in the Arlington National Cemetery.  Sickmann didn’t learn of their sacrifice until his release, but he remains grateful for their effort and the ongoing efforts of today’s service men and women.

“Less than one percent of our country is actually fighting the war on terror.  The other ninety-nine percent can enjoy the 4th of July because of what these dedicated individuals have done.  Folds of Honor is a great way to say thanks to active duty personnel and to honor those who do not return.”

On Wednesday the public is invited to attend the Budweiser – Fort Meade Red, White & Blue Celebration, featuring country music star Jerrod Niemann and an evening of fireworks and family entertainment.  The Clydesdales will be making an appearance at the festival, where attendees are welcome to interact with the hitch team.

The celebration will take place at the Fort Meade Parade Field (via the Visitor Control Center) 902 Reece Road in Fort Meade.