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Golf camp brings together PGA TOUR players, children of deceased soldiers

Carson, whose father, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Brent Cole, was killed in Afghanistan in May 2009, served as the honorary caddie for Rickie Fowler.
(photo contributed)

November 14, 2012

By Drew Brooks, The Fayetteville Observer

This article has been reposted courtesy of The Fayetteville Observer.

When Carson Cole uses the phrase "people like me," he isn't necessarily talking about children his age.

And he doesn't mean football players, although he is a two-way starter for Pine Forest Middle School.

When Carson says "people like me," he's talking about a much smaller group - the sons and daughters of fallen soldiers.

It's the loss of his father, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Brent Cole, that sets the 13-year-old apart from his peers. But for a few days earlier this year, he was surrounded by children who knew just how he felt.

Carson and his mother, Vanessa Cole, were in Tulsa, Okla., during Memorial Day weekend for a series of events for the families of fallen service members.

In addition to golf, the children participated in a number of camp activities.

"It was nice to meet people like that," said Carson, who participated in the same event last year. "It was like a reunion."

Through the Folds of Honor Foundation, Carson and the other children were treated to a weekend of fun planned around the Patriot Golf Tournament.

The tournament matched children like Carson with professional golfers. It will air on the Golf Channel all this week, starting today.

This year, Carson was an honorary caddie for Rickie Fowler, one of golf's rising stars, and Gary Woodland.

Last year, he caddied for Scott McCarron and Kansas basketball coach Bill Self.

Reminders of the trips - a signed glove from McCarron, a signed hat from Fowler - can be found in Carson's bedroom. His mother said her son will one day look back and cherish the memories even more than the autographs.

Cole is a fifth-grade teacher at VanStory Hills Elementary School. She said the trip was an opportunity to interact with people who know what you have gone through in dealing with the loss of a family member.

Her son keeps busy with extracurricular activities, which has helped both of them deal with the death.

"This event allows Carson to spend a weekend with kids who are going through the loss of a dad just like him," she said. "I also have the opportunity to visit with other widows, too."

Cole said her family has been overwhelmed by outreach from groups such as Folds of Honor and the Fort Bragg community.

"It just keeps coming," she said.

Brent Cole died in May 2009 when his AH-64 Apache helicopter crashed near Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan, officials said. His final moments were spent saving the life of his co-pilot, 1st Lt. Joshua Browns, an act that earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Carson isn't much of a golfer. The eighth-grader focuses his efforts on football - the sport his father taught him to play.

But his interaction with golf pros has piqued his interest, and Carson now is interested in playing.

The Patriot Golf Tournament is one of the signature events of the Folds of Honor Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides scholarships for children of fallen soldiers.

The organization has given more than 3,600 scholarships, typically totaling $5,000 each, since its creation five years ago.

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