This week, Patch introduces you to Chesterfield resident Matt Cutler, co-founder of the Joshua Chamberlain Society. Cutler was a semi-finalist for the Energizer Keep Going Hall of Fame, which celebrates those who make a positive impact on the world with their determination, boundless energy and never-ending spirit.
In many ways, the Joshua Chamberlain Society (JCS) began with the attacks on the World Trade Center. Soon, the country was at war with Iraq and American soldiers were returning home with severe injuries. Cutler wanted to get involved and began contacting groups involved in veterans' issues.
“After 9/11, the news reports were filled with soldiers coming back real banged up,” Cutler, an attorney at Harness and Dickey in Clayton, said. “I tried to get involved with the major charities to help them. People weren't getting back to me, so I decided to start my own thing.”
Along with co-founder Randy Soriano, an ex-Marine captain and attorney at the same law firm, Cutler created JCS to aid severely wounded service personnel and the families of killed-in-action members of the military. Joshua Chamberlain was a Congressional Medal of Honor winner and a Civil War hero who lived his post-war years dealing with the pain of his war wounds.
Cutler was determined that anyone who wanted to help would be welcomed. “We wanted to be an organization with arms wide open—anyone who wants to help can,” Cutler said. “It's grassroots.”
The charity began in 2009 and held its first fundraising event this year. The inaugrual Price of Freedom Gala and Marine Mess Night featured a dinner with a silent and live auction and military-produced entertainment styled on a traditional Marine mess night.
One beneficiary of the Joshua Chamberlain Society is Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Joshua Eckoff, a graduate of who received the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. Eckhoff sustained a serious head wound while serving in Iraq. The injury caused a significant problem with his equilibrium, making it difficult for him to shower, shave and perform other daily activities. The foundation remodeled his bathroom with a new bathtub, a sink that he could sit at, a new toilet and handrails that he could hold on to for balance. But Eckoff's difficulties also highlighted another issue: transportation.
“He came back about eight or nine years ago pretty banged up,” Eckoff said. “His transportation to and from therapy was a disaster. Like not picking him up to take him or leaving him there stranded. We're trying to get a van and provide them with some dignity.”
The society has already scheduled its upcoming events for anyone who wants to participate.
- Sept. 10: Shoot for the Heroes—a skeet shooting event and auction—with board member, ex-Cardinal John Mabry.
- Nov. 5: a trivia night
- Jan. 28, 2012: the 2nd Price of Freedom Gala
The Joshua Chamberlain Society makes a lifetime commitment to the soldiers and families that they adopt, which sets them apart from many organizations. “There's a lot of attention when they come home, but the publicity falls off,” Cutler said. “Our focus is to pick up from there. We want to fill in the gaps where government assistance falls down.”
Cutler had mixed emotions when he learned of his nomination to the Energizer Keep Going Hall of Fame.
“It's a great honor,” Cutler said. “The reason I started this was not notoriety, so at first I was reluctant. I was convinced by Randy that it was a great opportunity to spread the word.”
Finalists for the prize were announced this week. Cutler did not advance to the next round.
"It was a distinct honor to be nominated and a humbling experience to be supported by family, friends, and even strangers, who are all motivated by the beneficiaries of JCS--the men and women of our military who have sacrificed so much in our service," Cutler said in an email after the results were announced. "While I am disappointed I did not advance to the top 10 finalists because that honor would have been a tremendous platform from which to spread the word about JCS, being part of this program has been invaluable to JCS, and for that I am extremely grateful."
Each notable neighbor is asked a series of unrelated questions to offer us some insight into what makes them who they are.
What's your favorite movie of all time? Shawshank Redemption
What's your favorite food? I'm a 265-pound man so I have lots of favorites. I guess my favorite is a Chicago style hot dog.
If you could have a conversation with anyone in the world, living or dead, who would it be? Abraham Lincoln
What's your favorite book? Ghost Soldiers