Participants in this year’s ‘LU’ workout over Memorial Day Weekend raised more than 15 thousand dollars for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.
Although three years have passed since DeLeon-Figueroa died fighting in an operation in Faryab Province – in the north of Afghanistan, the people of Niceville haven’t forgotten him. The sergeant made the Okaloosa County area his home while he served with the 7th Special Forces Group.
The Special Operations Warrior Foundation will use the money raised at the event to help the children of men and women who’ve died in combat for the United States as special operations soldiers, marines, airmen and sailors get through college – a sacred duty, according to Buff Underwood.
In 1980 Buff took part in Operation Eagle Claw, an ultimately unsuccessful mission to save men and women taken captive at the US Embassy in Iran during the Iranian Revolution.
The death of Special Operators in a mishap at Desert I – a landing field for the operation left a permanent scar on his memory – and a mission to help the dependents left behind.
“It’s just a part of our heritage,“ Underwood said, “It was our guys that were lost and we’ve just got to take care of their kids, that’s all there is to it.”
That’s why this $15,000 check means so much to them. It is a part of the mission they began when they took an oath to uphold the constitution – and look out for their comrades in arms all those years ago.
The Special Operations Warrior Foundation has more than 250 fundraising events every year. Currently, they raise money for 991 children who are eligible to receive money from them. 460 children have graduated from college, thanks to the foundation.
The statistic Buff was most proud of – 96 cents of every dollar go to kids in the program. The rest goes to cover administrative costs.
Black Rifle Coffee Company invested in the success of the fundraiser, by sponsoring it. But they are also emotionally invested – One of Lu’s best pals is the General Manager at the Niceville location.
Franchise owner Jarrett Johnson knows it says a lot about the community that they were able to raise as much as they did.
“[The amount of money raised] shows what our community stands for and they understand that it’s not just another holiday,” Johnson said, “It’s not just another reason to go to the beach, go out on the boat, have a barbecue or whatever. It is those things, but here, we do those things to honor people who aren’t here with us.”