One of the more interesting speakers at NAILBA 31 was Major Dan Rooney, a Class A PGA golf pro, sports psychologist and an F-16 pilot with the Air National Guard. Rooney served three tours of duty in Iraq, where he “delivered the President’s mail,” as he put it.
Since he was 12, Rooney had two dreams: to be a pro golfer, and to be a fighter pilot. And he managed to accomplish both. But it wasn’t until he had come home from the war and was on a commercial airliner that he experienced a moment of synchronicity — when chance and purpose come together.
Rooney had boarded the flight and saw an Army corporal sitting in first class. He thought it odd, and went to his seat in coach. It wasn’t until they landed that the captain came on and explained to the passengers that the plane was transporting the remains of Corporal Brock Buckland, who had been killed in action in Iraq. The corporal Rooney saw sitting in first class was Brock’s twin brother, Brad. At that moment, Rooney decided he would put his golf and military careers together, and he started Patriot Golf Day, wherein folks who play golf on Labor Day give a donation to the families of fallen veterans. Five years later, Patriot Golf Day has raised over $16 million and awarded over 4,000 scholarships to the children of fallen soldiers.
Rooney gave his talk after there had been a presentation by the LIFE Foundation, which profiled a heartbreaking story of a young woman who was left to care for her sisters when their mother died without any life insurance. I am a big fan of the LIFE Foundation, and it was really encouraging to see NAILBA kick off their Friday program with two powerful reminders that there are bigger things to serve than ourselves. That there is a nobility to giving. And that the life insurance world is here both as a business and as a mission. That gets lost in translation sometimes, I think. We see life products grow ever more complex, we see them used as financial investment tools, we see annuities dominate the industry’s sales, and sometimes one forgets the widows and orphans who the industry was originally created to serve.
I spoke with some long-time brokers at NAILBA, who remarked at how much the industry has changed over the course of their career. I asked them if they ever felt that perhaps tomorrow’s agents would not get the mission of life insurance as much as they did. Some did, and some did not. Personally, I don’t see the mission being lost on tomorrow’s brokers and agents. The standing ovation they gave for the LIFE Foundation and Major Rooney was proof enough of that.