FUMA Alums Join Together to Help K9s For Warriors

(left to right: Jason Haag and Axel, Don Moore, Micky Sullivan, Bill Mitchell, and Brian Keaton)

You might file this story under the heading "It's a small world, and FUMA is a big part of it." It is just one more example of the powerful reach that Fork Union has had in the world, and the remarkable compassion and sense of service our alumni bring to their communities.

A Wounded Warrior

Our story centers around Brian Keaton, Sr., a former Sergeant First Class in the U. S. Army who served multiple deployments as a sniper during combat operations in Iraq. Severely wounded in an explosion, Keaton spent many months in the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center receiving treatment for traumatic brain injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). His wife, Kristin, spent her days caring for Brian as well as raising their five children, three of whom she was home schooling. Their 14 year old son, Jonathan, was beginning to struggle in math, and Kristin was doing the best she could to teach him and help him with online classes.

When Keaton began looking for a good school for his son, he received valuable advice from a close family friend, Bishop E. W. Jackson, currently the Republican nominee for Lt. Governor. Bishop Jackson had spoken to the Cadets Corps at Fork Union Military Academy previously and came away impressed. He encouraged Keaton to pursue enrolling Jonathan at FUMA. Bishop Jackson also spoke to his friend and FUMA Trustee, David Barrett, sharing the Keaton family's story.

Keaton's situation came to the attention of Fork Union Military Academy's Director of Development, LTC Don Moore. Moore, himself a FUMA alumnus, and a combat veteran with two Bronze Star Medals and Purple Hearts  on his own uniform, soon matched up Jonathan with access scholarship funds provided by FUMA alumnus (Class of 1951) and Trustee, Ken Koeller, owner of Virginia Propane. Jonathan enrolled in FUMA's freshman class in August, 2013.

A Charity Golf Tournament

Moore then learned that a charity golf tournament was being organized to support K9s For Warriors (http://www.K9sForWarriors.org), and the organizer of the event was none other than FUMA alumnus Jason Haag of the Class of 1999. As a Captain in the U. S. Marine Corps, Haag was wounded on three separate occasions and returned home as a wounded warrior suffering from PTSD. Jason received a service dog, Axel, from K9s For Warriors and it changed his life. Jason wanted to give back by organizing a golf tournament to try to raise $50,000 to help five other wounded warriors receive specially trained service dogs to help in their adjustment and recovery. Moore quickly signed on to play in the tournament and began working the phones to do even more.

It was FUMA alumnus Ken Koeller who once again stepped forward to give a sizable contribution to help sponsor the tournament and to sponsor the training of a service dog to be provided to a returning serviceman. Moore knew just the man who would benefit from receiving a service dog: Brian Keaton.

On September 16, 2013, the golf tournament was held at Lee's Hill Golf Club in Fredericksburg. Moore and FUMA alumnus and Athletic Director Micky Sullivan both played in the tournament, Sullivan having coached Jason Haag during his high school football days. The turnout of golfers greatly exceeded expectations and the event ended up exceeding its fundraising goal of $50,000, thanks in part to the sponsorships given by Ken Koeller, and the other major tournament sponsor, the Fraternal Order of Eagles. Coming forward to help make the presentation of the Eagles' sponsorship check was another service veteran named Bill Mitchell. It turns out that Mitchell is also a FUMA alumnus from the Class of 1956. 

The highlight of the luncheon following the tournament was when Jason Haag called Brian Keaton to the front of the audience. Brian had been asked to attend the tournament, but wasn't really sure why he was there. To his surprise and gratitude, Brian Keaton was told that he would be the next recipient of a service dog from K9s For Warriors. Keaton's friend, Bishop E. W. Jackson (on left in photo), was again on hand to congratulate Keaton, taking time out of his busy campaign schedule to be there when his friend Brian Keaton was honored. Bishop Jackson offered a stirring prayer, thanking those warriors who fought for our freedoms so that we could gather peacefully on a September day to play a game of golf together.

A Remarkable Connection

So, on a cool September day, two FUMA alumni played in a golf tournament organized by a FUMA alumnus with the substantial sponsorship support of two other FUMA alumni, all to help our nation's wounded warriors, including the father of a future FUMA alumnus. All in all, a very good day indeed.