BEMIDJI -- Shane Gustafson has served his country in various places around the world, and now he's ready to help serve others like him.
Gustafson was born in Minot, N.D., and raised in Cheyenne, Wyo. After high school, he followed in his sister's footsteps and joined the military, going into the engineering field with the U.S. Army.
It was the first of two enlistments Gustafson did before he later settled in Beltrami County. For the last 13 years, he worked with the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office, but today, his position involves helping veterans.
On April 6, the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners approved the recommendation made by a committee to hire Gustafson to be the new Veteran Services Officer. Gustafson will succeed Scotty Allison in the role, who announced his intentions to retire last summer and officially announced his retirement plans in February.
Gustafson said he was interested in the role because he's had personal experience getting help from the office.
"Prior to moving here, I had no idea what a CVSO was, let alone where to find one," Gustafson said. "It wasn't until I moved here that I had health issues from my military experience and I didn't know where to get help. I had been navigating the VA and it was confusing, there's a lot of information and forms, and doing that is difficult. A family member told me about Scotty, though, and he's the one who took my file and was able to get me the care I needed."
Gustafson's military career started in 1994. He had a tour in Korea and was in the service until 1999 when he had an honorable discharge.
After his discharge, Gustafson went to Tempe, Ariz., to study graphic design. But after the events of 9/11, he chose to reenlist and then served in the Army through 2004 and was also deployed to Iraq.
In the time following his service, Gustafson met his wife Samantha, who's from Bemidji, and moved to town to attend Bemidji State before beginning his work at the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office. Gustafson is now continuing a career with the county and is working alongside Allison for the next several months.
The plan is for Allison to assist in training Gustafson with full-time hours until October before reducing to about half-time before he officially steps into retirement in April 2022.
Gustafson said he's excited to fully lead the office and anxious to see what his work can bring to the community.
"I'm looking forward to the outreach and informing veterans that don't realize there's a CVSO or letting them know where to get information about compensation and benefits," Gustafson said. "I want to make sure they know there are people in this office every day who are ready to serve the community."