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Veterans get back outdoors: Non-profit organization provides recreational therapy to veterans and active duty

“I don’t know much about anything, but I think some of America’s best young men served in this war.” This a quote from “Forrest Gump.” No words could ring more true as some of America’s best men and women fight to keep the U.S. safe; however, not all of them come home the way they left. Many suffer both physical and mental injuries that follow them everyday and keep them from doing the things they used to enjoy.

Fortunately, the Band of Brothers Outdoors, a nonprofit organization, specializes completely in fun. However, the term they use is recreational therapy, and it is used to help honorably discharged veterans and active duty members get involved in great outdoor activities. The idea is to help veterans do things that may be hard or otherwise impossible for them to do on their own.

President and co-founder of Band of Brothers Outdoors, John Venable, started this organization with the help of vice president and co-founder, Jared Theile, and treasurer and co-founder, Jeremy Hemsworth. They are assisted by Theo Rex, Jacob Moga, Blair Steffens and their pro staff.

The ultimate vision of the Band of Brothers Outdoors is to get veterans and active duty members back outdoors. By doing this, veterans who may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, traumatic brain injury, and/or depression can find ways to clear their minds in ways that have long term benefits.

“It all began when I had a bad back from my service in the marines,” Venable said. “I was looking for a permanent ice house to put out. I just put on a facebook page that I was looking for one and Jared soon reached out to me and offered me an ice house. I found out that he was also a veteran and we got to talking about how we both really enjoy getting outside and we kind of built a bond and commonality on that. From there we thought there was probably a lot of other veterans out there who could benefit from something like this, and that’s basically how we got started.”

They have been running since December of 2014, but were officially recognized in January of 2015. The organization has no brick and mortar, but rather, is scattered throughout Minnesota. They are veteran founded, veteran run and veteran focused, they are also 100 percent volunteer based.

Activities and events include everything from kayaking and mushrooming to bear hunts and ice fishing tournaments. These events are all donated, whether it be a bear hunt that a guide offers to bait and guide a veteran, or if equipment is needed for a veteran to go fishing. A big sponsor of the Band of Brothers Outdoors is Cabelas out of Woodbury, which has sponsored items for these events such as backpacks, hats,  t-shirts and sometimes a couple of bigger ticket items for the ice fishing events.

“It’s usually nothing too crazy, but it’s to where every veteran is walking away with something,” Venable said.

The organization runs full time with fishing events, hunting and bowhunting events that come up year round. What is truly amazing about the entire staff is that, each day they balance family and career as well as this organization. Venable said that right now their goal is to keep their organization to the Midwest area and keep it smaller. This way visitors and veterans can get to know the entire staff instead of just seeing them as a face in the crowd. Other organizations that are similar tend to get large and the Band of Brothers Outdoors would like to stick to quality over quantity.

The Band of Brothers Outdoors has plenty of upcoming events including whitetail hunts and ice fishing events as it gets colder. If you know a veteran who could benefit from one of their programs, or if you are interested in making a donation, please contact the Band of Brothers Outdoors through their website