U.S. Navy veteran runs outdoor programs for other retired troops
After 20 years in the U.S. Navy, Wauconda resident Ryan Jacobsen knows the camaraderie military service creates.
And he also knows many veterans struggle emotionally without that fellowship, that connection to others like them.
That's why the 46-year-old Jacobsen has been leading fishing trips and other outdoor activities as a volunteer with a Wauconda-based group called Veterans R&R.
The adventures give veterans opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and to open up about issues they might be experiencing, Jacobsen said.
"I organize these outings ... to strengthen the veteran community and develop a strong network for veterans to lean on," he said.
Jacobsen served in the Navy from 1992 to 2012, serving as a boiler technician and a master training specialist, among other roles. He joined Veterans R&R in 2013.
In addition to organizing the trips for veterans, Jacobsen arranged annual excursions to Chicago Cubs games at Wrigley Field with active duty sailors.
Last year, Jacobsen was hired as a case manager with a McHenry group called TLS Veterans, which serves veterans in Lake, McHenry, Boone, Winnebago and Kenosha counties. The group's name is an acronym for "Transforming Lives through Service to Veterans."
"We assist struggling veterans and their families that are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless," he said. "Sadly, there are quite a few out there."
Jacobsen's position is funded with a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs grant aimed at combating veterans' homelessness.
"Our case management includes anything and everything to assist them, with the ultimate goal being stable permanent housing," he said.
Jacobsen plans to leave Veterans R&R this summer and launch an outdoor program under the TLR Veterans umbrella, still as a volunteer.
"It only makes sense since I am there every day and my support structure is under one roof," he said.
Jacobsen also serves as the senior vice commander with American Legion Post 911 in Wauconda. Wauconda Trustee Linda Starkey praised Jacobsen for the work he's done with veterans.
"Ryan is a great man who continues to serve our community the way he served our country -- with hard work and diligence in everything he does," Starkey said.
• Do you know of veterans helping other veterans, doing good things for their community or who have an interesting story to tell? Share your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.