Wounded vets invited to Montana ranch for respite
By Diane Y. Welch
With his retirement from the world of finance in 1994, local resident William Cohen turned his attention to helping others. Now his compassion is focused on the nation’s “wounded warriors.”
Last year Cohen purchased nearly a square mile of property just outside of Livingston, Mont. Here he created Howling Wolf Ranch, a place for therapeutic respite for Marines, Army and Navy personnel wounded in action.
The ranch is a peaceful, natural wonderland, and represents a dream come true for Cohen, who wants to give back to his country.
“I had a terrific Wall Street career and it was very good to me. Then when I retired I decided that I wanted to do something other than just for myself, I wanted to show my gratitude,” Cohen said.
“I started to look for a suitable ranch and I found, in May of last year, property 19 miles outside of Livingston, Montana,” he said. The 520-acre property features a lake stocked with rainbow trout and some of the most raw, majestic scenery in the country, Cohen said.
On the property sits a 5,000-square-foot, two-story lodge, built seven years ago, with six bedrooms, four full bathrooms and plenty of space for a poolroom. It sleeps up to 16 people, but to make it more comfortable Cohen plans to accommodate four guests at a time.
“The tentative schedule is to bring out four wounded warriors for a six-day stay, starting mid June and bringing a group of four out every other week until the beginning of October,” Cohen said. A total of nine groups will be served annually, with mild weather conditions dictating the length of the season.
The ranch is in close proximity to the Yellowstone River.
“We are really going to focus around fishing as one of the daytime activities. The fly fishing up there is spectacular,” he said. “We’ll have at least two full days of fishing — drift boat fishing — with an instructor who will command the boat and give instruction on how to fly fish.”
The ranch will also offer all-terrain vehicle riding, trout fishing, trap shooting and horseshoeing, hiking and canine entertainment courtesy of Cohen’s Labradors Spencer and Bozeman. One day will be spent going to Yellowstone Park and evenings will be spent on dining out or cooking up barbecues and shooting pool.
Cohen is also building a barn to stable horses and will offer horseback riding to those who have an interest.
The idea for Howling Wolf Ranch is not a new one for Cohen. He originated the Howling Wolf Ranch Foundation in 1997 and within two years had purchased a ranch in Whitefish, Mont., to bring out families through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Make-A-Wish serves families with children who have life-threatening medical conditions.
“I love kids and I thought that this would be something that I could do that would be really beneficial for these sick kids,” said Cohen, who granted the wishes to those requesting a dude ranch stay or western-style vacation.
During a week’s stay he provided food, lodging, riding and recreation, all free of charge, to many families over a five-year period. However, it was necessary to sell the ranch in 2003, when Cohen moved to New York due to his family responsibilities. He returned to his home in Rancho Santa Fe a few years later.
Cohen now hopes he can make a difference in the lives of wounded veterans.
“We have these two wars going on, and we see these poor young kids, with their legs blown off or their arms blown off. It’s just heartbreaking,” he said.
The Naval Hospital in San Diego is cooperating with Cohen and has agreed to select the veterans able to make the flight up to Montana for the six-day stay.
“The soldiers that we will bring out to the ranch are still in the military and are in rehabilitation at the Naval Hospital in San Diego,” Cohen explained. “I was asked if I could take double amputees, and I said that I could, if somebody comes out with them to assist. And they said that was fine.”
Cohen is now reaching out to those who would like to contribute to his Howling Wolf Ranch Foundation, a 501(c) 3 designated tax-deductable charity. Money is needed to help offset the air travel costs and the cost of the drift boat excursion.
Based on 36 guests that figure is close to $50,000 a year, said Cohen, who will fund all other expenses connected with the stay. Volunteers who have a love of nature and compassion for wounded servicemen are also welcome to stay.
“Our vets are truly deserving of this wonderful experience,” he added, “and even a little help will go a long way to their recovery.”