Making his story matter: Family of local veteran lost to PTSD creates foundation to help military veterans coming back from war
Twice a year, on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, Americans across the country remember those military servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, and celebrate those who returned home safely from the front lines.
But for many of those who do return, reintegrating back into civilian life can pose unexpected challenges, as they struggle with healing from the invisible wounds of war. Such was the case for former U.S. Army Specialist Brady Oberg, a combat veteran out of Detroit Lakes who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Though he had a loving family and a devoted wife, whom he married after returning to his native Minnesota in February 2012, Oberg's struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) led him to take his own life on Aug. 6, 2015. He was just 27 years old.
On the day following his passing, Brady's wife, Katie Oberg, and sister, Tracy Dunham, began having discussions about finding a way to honor his memory in a positive way.
"Brady always wanted to do something meaningful with his life," says Katie Oberg. "He wanted to make a difference in this world. We (Tracy and herself) had both had many conversations with him about it in the past, so we decided that day that we needed to carry out his legacy by doing something important and meaningful in honor of him.
"Because of the tragedy we were dealing with, we started to realize how big of an issue post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide have become with veterans."
By October, plans for creating the Brady Oberg Legacy Foundation were in place, and a formal announcement was made during the first-ever Defender Dash 8K Run/Walk, held on Oct. 10, 2015 in Fargo. A second Defender Dash 8K is scheduled for Oct. 8 this year, with all the proceeds going to the Oberg Foundation.
The foundation's first board meeting was held in November, and the following goals were established:
1. To bring combat veterans together with other veterans for restorative, fun, stress free retreats; 2. To raise awareness of combat related PTSD; 3. To provide educational scholarships for combat veterans seeking education and a career in counseling other combat veterans
"Our mission is to promote a happy and healthy life for combat veterans," Oberg said.
With these goals in mind, the foundation held a golf scramble in June to help raise awareness of combat-related PTSD, and this coming weekend, its first-ever veterans' retreat is being held at Holbrook Farms in rural Detroit Lakes.
"Our goal is to get these veterans together for some fun, stress-free experiences where they can connect with each other and talk about what they're going through," Oberg said. "For my husband, the best form of therapy was to visit with the guys he served in Afghanistan with."
After the veterans are picked up at the Fargo airport on Friday, some of the activities scheduled include a bonfire and welcome barbecue that night at Holbrook Farms; a pheasant hunting trip to nearby McCollum Hunting Preserve Saturday morning, followed by lunch and a clay pigeon shoot in the afternoon, and massages, pizza and another bonfire back at Holbrook Farms that night; and on Sunday afternoon, a trip to Detroit Lake itself, where there will be opportunities for a pontoon ride, water skiing, tubing, etc., as well as yard games and lunch, followed by more water sports and dinner at Longbridge.
"If the weather isn't good, we'll go four-wheeling instead," Oberg said.
On Monday, the veterans will fly home again. There is no cost for the veterans to take part in the retreat; all expenses are being funded by the foundation, she added.
For this first retreat, Oberg noted, several of the eight participants invited are veterans that she knew personally from her husband's days in the service, but they hope to open it up to a broader base of veterans in the future.
"We want to make it an annual event," she said.