‘Just doing my job:’ Local veteran earns recognition for guide service that helps veterans
BEMIDJI — Brian Ophus, a local veteran, has recently been selected for two awards for his achievements helping veterans through his Wounded Warrior Guide Service, a nonprofit he started to take veterans into the outdoors for recreational therapy.
“We go hunting, fishing, backpacking, camping, pretty much anything outdoors,” he said.
Ophus has been selected as one of the 2014 Ten Outstanding Young Minnesotans Honorees from the Minnesota Jaycees as well as being named a 2014 Veterans’ Voices Award winner from the Minnesota Humanities Center.
The idea for Wounded Warrior Guide Service came after Ophus had returned from a nearly two-year deployment in Iraq with the Minnesota National Guard. He was visiting a friend in the hospital, who said that while the care he was receiving was great, it was depressing to be around other wounded people all the time.
“We checked him out for the weekend and brought him muzzle loading for deer and he didn’t get anything, but it was getting him out of the hospital,” he said.
Soon after, the friend asked if it would be possible to another veteran out. “The light came on, I’ve got all the equipment to do all the stuff, so ‘why can’t I ?’”
The service allows veterans to not only get out of the hospital but spend time with other veterans.
“When you get out of the military, the camaraderie aspect, you lose that. With this, we try and provide that because they are going out with a bunch of other veterans,” he said. The service recently hosted its largest event to date with 64 veterans fishing on Leech Lake.
But the Wounded Warrior Guide Service isn’t the only way that Ophus works with veterans. His job, a veterans employment representative, allows him to work with individual veterans and to prepare them to enter the job search.
Ophus said his personal military history and veteran status has made his job easier.
“When someone is walking into my office, they already know that so we don’t have to try and break down that barrier of trust,” he added.
Ophus was surprised when learned that he would be receiving both of the awards. “I’m just doing my job,” he said.
For more information, visit www.wwgsmn.org/index.html
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