Ohio Veterans Outdoors, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit organization created by and for Combat-wounded, Ill, and Injured Veterans of the US Armed Forces.
Mission: Promote Wounded Veteran wellness through outdoor experiences and education
Purpose: Provide opportunities to these veterans that promote personal growth, healing, stress relief, character development, relationship building, and community strengthening through outdoor experiences, activities, and educational programs relating to wildlife management and conservancy efforts with the goal of raising public awareness of and enlisting public support for wounded veterans.
My name is Brian Luce and I founded Ohio Veterans Outdoors in June 2016. I’m a retired US Air Force pilot, injured in a plane crash in Afghanistan in 2010. In addition to my physical injuries – traumatic brain injury, broken back, and broken leg (left tibia and fibula) – I was also feeling the mental and emotional effects of the traumatic event. We lost two squadron-mates – the pilot and flight engineer sitting right next to me, and two other patriots – a US Army Ranger (Scroll NOT tab) and our Ranger interpreter – a 26 year old contractor. My seat was thrown from the aircraft immediately before the aircraft cabin folded over the cockpit, causing the four fatalities and 16 severe casualties…I was fractions of a second away from leaving my three kids without a father. Why my seat left the aircraft and how I survived is a mystery to everyone involved. My wife told me it wasn’t my time and that I had some task yet to accomplish.
In 2013, with help from the Wounded Warrior Project, I participated in my first wounded warrior event, a whitetail deer hunt in the Blackwater Forest of Northwest Florida. The folks from the Florida Forest Service acted as our guides and we were treated to a great hunt and some great down time around the fire pit. That hunt let me escape for a few days and in the process, meet an ex-Army Infantry Scout, Jeremy, who I now consider one of my few very close friends. He was blown up by a rocket in Iraq and participating in the hunt for the same reasons I was – support, help, camaraderie, fellowship, and some peace.(Blackwater deer hunt, me far left kneeling, Jeremy black shirt kneeling – thanks WWP and FL Forest Service)
At the end of the great weekend as the two of us and the other six warrior hunters were pulling our trucks out of the parking lot – each with a cooler full of fresh venison – I was snapped back into reality and suddenly sad again…I had to go back to work, the “real world” and wrestle with all the memories and emotions of the crash and it’s aftermath. I think Jeremy sensed my pain and invited me on another wounded warrior hunt near Tallahassee. Thus the start of a lifelong friendship. (Jeremy’s service dog, Trooper, and my two mutts wrestling when he was up from FL to hunt in 2015)
I got home that Sunday afternoon and told my wife – who is a saint for putting up with my roller coaster emotions, and stubborness to get back to flying – that I wanted to give back somehow and do something like that hunt I was just on. For me to fully recover, I needed to help others recover, get some peace, and start to heal. Well, it took more than three years and plenty of struggles, but I finally got it started and now I have the help of my good friend James Sanders, also a retired Air Force veteran. I had a ton of help from my great friend Eric – who just so happens to be a lawyer – getting all the paperwork together to get incorporated and get IRS 501(c)(3) Nonprofit status for Ohio Veterans Outdoors. (Paul and Todd McLemore – two of the funniest guys I’ve ever hunted with – thanks Hot Coffee Hunts for Heroes)
I started the process of giving back right here in my new community of Clarksville, in Southwest Ohio. Ohio Veterans Outdoors aims to not just take veterans hunting and fishing, but find them a lifelong passion and way to deal with the stress of injuries, depression, and PTSD. In executing our events, we also hope to raise awareness of veteran health in our rural community and fight the battle to eliminate the 22 veteran suicides a day.
(From R to L – Conan (USAF), me, Melvin (Army) and our guide on a Pheasant hunt in PA – thanks WWP and Rosebud Mining)
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, please consider helping us give back to the men and women who’ve given so much for this great country.