Sometimes good things can come from even the unhappiest events.
The Brady Oberg Legacy Foundation, for instance, has been accomplishing good things for several years now: holding retreats for veterans and raising money for awareness about the dangers of post-traumatic stress disorder.
It was formed by family and friends after PTSD ended up taking the life of Brady Oberg, who served in the front lines of Afghanistan in 2010 after joining the U.S. Army a year earlier.
According to the foundation website, Oberg was a courageous, tough, highly skilled infantryman in the 10th Mountain Division 4th Brigade, who earned the respect of his fellow soldiers and the Army Commendation Medal for saving four of his fellow soldiers.
Oberg grew up in the small town of Ulen, and had a happy childhood, with many friends, lots of interests, and plenty of school and church activities. He was an active outdoorsman and learned the value of hard work at a young age.
After his 12-month deployment, he returned to Fort Polk in Louisiana to finish out his time on active duty. That’s when he married Katie.
His return to civilian life seemed to go smoothly: He went to college to finish his degree, found work, and planned to build a home on property he bought with Katie.
But the challenge of assimilating to his new life after combat proved to be more than he could bear, and on Aug. 6, 2015, he took his own life, according to the foundation website. He was just 27.
A patriot with a strong love of country, Oberg was an avid reader and believed that education had the power to change the world. He had high ideals and talked of his desire to leave some kind of legacy behind him, said his widow (and foundation treasurer) Katie Lage.
Oberg was very intelligent, willing to try anything to help others, and truly wanted the best for everyone he knew, Lage said. He was very responsible, loved God, his wife and family and was extremely loyal to his brothers in arms. His loved ones were devastated by his death.
In retrospect, some signs of PTSD were there, but they weren’t recognized, said Lage. No one realized how deeply he was struggling, and it was a combination of this devastation, his talk about a legacy, and a desire to protect others that was the impetus for starting the Brady Oberg Legacy Foundation, she said.
The goals were chosen because of their direct connection to Oberg. After his return to civilian life, he went to counseling, but felt that those who tried to help him “really didn’t get it,” Lage said.
Oberg believed that counselors who hadn’t been in combat couldn’t understand the mind of a combat soldier, and that the best counseling came from time spent with fellow soldiers.
Thus, “the idea of soldier retreats became one of our goals, along with providing scholarships to combat veterans wishing to go into the mental health field to help other soldiers,” Lage said. Oberg’s strong belief in education reinforced the idea of scholarships, which go to qualifying students at North Dakota State University, she added.
The foundation works hard to inform the public, especially spouses and families, about the signs, effects and how to get help for post-traumatic stress disorder. “Our ignorance of PTSD prompted the goal of PTSD awareness,” Lage said.
To that end, the foundation now has PTSD-awareness ads on three billboards on Highway 10, including one in Detroit Lakes, Lage said. “We’ve been working a lot on the PTSD awareness aspect,” she added, “just because we haven’t had the ability to do other things.”
The foundation’s usual fundraisers were largely put on hold this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but several small retreats were held, including a one for seven Vietnam War veterans and another one with seven younger veterans, she said. In December, an ice fishing retreat is planned for five veterans on Big Pine Lake in Perham. The foundation covers all expenses for the veterans.
“Getting veterans together, spending time together, they are typically a little more open with other vets as opposed to family and loved ones,” Lage said. “They get some of those things off their chest, which is very beneficial, and getting together with other vets is the way to do it … we’ve seen it, especially with Vietnam vets. Some of them haven’t opened up in a long time.”
Founded in 2015, the foundation has held a golfing event for PTSD awareness for several years in Fertile. It was supposed to be held at Forest Hills in Detroit Lakes this year, but was canceled because of COVID. “We had everything ready to go, but we couldn’t do it,” Lage said. “We will do it next year if we can.”
It also had to cancel its annual motorcycle run in August.
The foundation will participate in Giving Hearts Day in February. “That’s our main event,” Lage said.
And an event called Brady’s Border2Border Ruck March did go forward this year. Organized by foundation ambassador John Delziel, it covered 100 miles -- from Fargo to a cemetery in Ulen to visit Oberg’s grave, and then back to Fargo-Moorhead to end at the Veterans bridge. Participants signed up for various segments along the route. “They carried rucks on their backs and carried the U.S. flag and a flag with our foundation logo on it,” Lage said.
The foundation pays no salaries and everybody involved is a volunteer, Lage said. “It’s very important to us, and we learned a lot after Brady passed … we thought we should maybe use that situation to help others who might be struggling, and their family members as well,” she said.
To donate to the foundation
Visit its website at: https://bradyoberglegacyfoundation.org or mail a check to: Brady Oberg Legacy Foundation, 512 13th St. N.E., Dilworth, MN, 56529