Thursday, October 11, 2007

Concert to Aid Injured Guardsmen

(Editor's Note: The following story appeared in the Oct. 10, 2007 issue of The Crittenden Press. It is reprinted here with permission.)

By Daryl K. Tabor

Sitting in a room with his father at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Chase Matthews knows he’ll be missing out on some fun Saturday night. But, he takes it all in stride, choosing to focus on his duck-hunting trip next month.

While Matthews continues to recover from another surgery to further repair his left arm and left leg crippled in Iraq, another of his fellow soldiers will be home to enjoy a benefit concert planned for this Saturday.

“I wish I could be there, but I’ve got to stay,” Matthews said from Washington, D.C., as his father, Rudy, stood by.

Benefit Bravo, set for 7:30 p.m., at Fohs Hall, will bring together four classic rock and country music acts to raise money for Spec. Matthews and Sgt. Jonathan McMackin. The two local men were injured by a roadside bomb this spring while on patrol in Iraq with their Kentucky Army National Guard unit, Bravo Company based in Marion. Matthews eventually lost both legs and damaged his left arm. McMackin suffered a broken leg, and still walks with a bit of a limp.

“We don’t know either one of them,” said concert organizer Tracy Jent, who since planning the event has spoken with the soldiers. “I’ve talked to both, and Jonathan plans to be there.”

Jent, of Eddyville, is manager of Bobby Clark and Witch Doctor’s Hooch, one of the bands performing Saturday. He said the idea for the benefit came when he saw a plastic jug in an area store seeking donations for one of the soldier’s recovery.

“I don’t care if you support the president. I don’t care if you support the war. But, we’ve got to take care of these guys,” Jent said Tuesday on the phone. “There’s no way in hell I’d do what they’ve done.”

All of the proceeds from the $5 admission to the music show and anything left over from corporate sponsorships will go to Matthews and McMackin.

“Whatever it is, it goes to the boys and the cause,” Jent said.

Appearing on stage will be Jent’s band, made mostly of members from the region; recording artist Marshall Sanford; Richie Lindsey and Friends, a Crittenden County band; and Warren Batts, former guitarist for Bill Haley and The Comets. Batts, in fact, will be emcee for the night.

Jent said his band’s connection to John Mellencamp allowed him to land two autographed posters of the rock legend from Indiana.

“One of our band members is first cousins with John,” Jent said.

The posters, as well as some gift baskets for the ladies, will be raffled off Saturday. Aside from the money raised through such efforts, a gift pack to each of the soldiers will include autographed CDs from Mellencamp and Charlie Daniels. A camera crew will also be on hand Saturday to record the event on DVD for Matthews and McMackin.

Meantime, Matthews will continue his physical and occupational therapy at Walter Reed, adjusting to losing both legs and working toward full-range of movement in his left arm. His most recent surgery scraped away some more bone from the left leg in order to allow his prosthesis to fit more snugly. When the stitches come out next week, his dad said, he’ll begin getting used to the new fit.

“It won’t be long before he’s up and going again,” Rudy said Tuesday.

Rudy will stay in Washington with his son until his next leave from the Army hospital, hopefully for Thanksgiving and Christmas, Chase said.

“I’m coming along pretty well,” he added.

He doesn’t plan on missing his hunting trip Nov. 9-11. He and three other soldiers, as well as Rudy, will be treated to a weekend at Pintail Point, a river plantation on Maryland’s eastern shore. Bass Pro Shops is paying for the trip and new shotguns as gifts the soldiers will use to hunt the ducks.

“I won't get to hunt,” said Rudy, “but it’ll be fun.”

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