Benefit for wounded veterans June 5

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Not only does former Marine Matt Cole work diligently with the Wounded War Heroes, but he is one himself.

While serving in Iraq in 2005, shrapnel from mortars fired by insurgents struck the 34-year-old Cole in the back. He suffered a spinal cord injury and is confined to a wheelchair. He served in the Marine Corps from 1999 to 2006.

Cole is assisting the Wounded War Heroes Foundation with its inaugural fundraising banquet on June 5 at the Castine Center on Pelican Drive in Mandeville. The banquet is from 5:30 to 11 p.m.

Activities during the banquet will include a dinner and an open bar with the purchase of a $10 raffle ticket. Activities will also include gun raffles, a silent and live auction and live music by Harvey Jesus and Fire.

Bogalusa veteran, the late David “Bear” Stewart, will be honored. Stewart parents, Joey and Martha Stewart, will attend the banquet.

“Wounded War Heroes is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to show appreciation to the men and women who have been wounded while in combat, by providing them therapeutic outdoor experiences upon their return home from fighting for our country,” Cole said. “The sole purpose is to show these veterans that they have not been forgotten for their courageous service to our country.”

Former oilfield salesman Emeric Watson is founder and current chairman of Wounded War Heroes.

Cole said a fundraiser is necessary because of the current economy.

“The banquet came about due to a lack of funding or falloff of our sponsors,” Cole said. “This organization has been around since 2008 and was heavily supported by the oilfield. This year, with the downturn in the oilfield, the organization lost about 50 percent its sponsorships.”

He added, “I am a veteran who was directly impacted by the organization. They have given so much to me that I want to give back and help them raise sponsorships.”

Cole said on Monday that the event is nearly sold out with less than 100 tickets available. Single tickets are $50.

“I don‘t want to see the organization die off and not be able to do something for somebody else like they did for me,” Cole said. “I will help them in any way I can, whether it’s to raise awareness, funds or help other veterans get in touch with them.”

Cole said he returned home from the military with many questions about life.

“I returned home three weeks after Hurricane Katrina to an uncertain future. Thankfully, my girlfriend stayed with me through the rough road of recovery, and we were married in June of 2006. I continued physical therapy and completed an associate’s in culinary arts, however,I had no direction and no drive. I was in a sad state of depression when Wounded War Heroes found me,” Cole said. “I was invited to go turkey hunting by Cpl. Mike Savoie, another severely wounded veteran. It was during that hunt that I fell back in love with nature. The time around the campfire with other veterans was the most beneficial. Hearing the other stories and reliving mine forced me to confront my issues head on. The more hunting and fishing trips I went on, the more I realized how much I have to offer others.”

Cole and his wife, Kim, live in Covington.