Updated on December 10, 2015
We first featured BJ Ganem in an article published to our site in mid-2013. Since then, he’s been an energetic and highly visible supporter of the Semper Fi Fund, discussing the issues service members face (and how the Semper Fi fund is addressing those issues) on a broad range of media outlets, including Late Night with David Letterman, Sports Illustrated Now, CBS Evening News, Fox News and America Online.
“I love getting out there and talking to people and spreading the word about what the Semper Fi Fund is all about,” BJ says. “We have come a long way in terms of connecting those that sacrifice to preserve our freedom to those that thrive in our free society; but, we still have more work to do and the Semper Fi Fund is leading that charge day in and day out.”
But BJ has been far more than a media darling: Shortly after his first profile appeared on our site, he left his position as Dane County Veteran Service Officer in Madison, Wisconsin, to help us start the Veteran 2 Veteran program (V2V).
“The V2V program is something I’m extremely passionate about,” says BJ. “We train V2V leads to work with service members to help them understand and gain access to programs that could help them; for example, VA Health Care, TriCare, VA Education Benefits, VA Disability Benefits, Department of Defense proceedings, State Veteran Benefits, and a whole range of community and nonprofit programs that offer opportunities for these service members to enrich their lives. It’s a logical extension of the work I did in Madison, where I helped veterans navigate the often-overwhelming world of the VA and veterans benefits.”
BJ also played a key role when the Fund reached out to the survivors of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and has since formed a close bond with many of them.
“You want to dive in and take their pain away,” Ganem said in 2013 when he and six wounded comrades traveled to Boston to help the bombing victims. “We went in lightheartedly and said, ‘Welcome to the club.’ I’d take off my leg and show them the pros of being an amputee. You have a traveling ottoman — you can take off your leg and prop your legs up on it anytime. I told them you can drink out of it, so you have a ready mug.”
In 2015, BJ completed the Boston Marathon on a handcycle — and in 2016, he is planning to run in the Boston Marathon, as part of a team led by Marathon bombing survivor Patrick Downes.
“Participating in the Boston Marathon on a handcycle was amazing, but participating as a runner on Patrick’s team is really taking this journey to a whole new level,” BJ said. “It was only 3 years ago that this tragedy took place, yet here’s Patrick suiting up to run the Marathon. In a word: Inspiring.”
“I remember how moved I was seeing the images of Boston as they were happening in 2013,” BJ continued, “which is why I, and others from Team Semper Fi, were so compelled to rush to Boston and help in anyway we could. But I feel as if Patrick and the rest of the survivors and the families of the fallen have helped me more than I helped them–they’ve raised my spirit, my esteem, and have pushed me to challenge myself even more from the relationship we’ve cultivated since that horrible event.”
Perhaps the greatest adventure BJ faces these days, though, is fatherhood. BJ and Sarah (they married in 2011) welcomed their second son, Rhodes, on July 31, 2015. Their first child together, Knox, was born on August 31, 2013. They live in Reedsburg, Wisconsin, with Dylan and Mackenzie (children from BJ’s previous marriage) and their two English Bulldogs, Dozer and Sonora.
“Family is everything,” BJ says, “and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I am blessed to have Sarah and our kids as my family, and I am blessed to be part of the Semper Fi Fund family. Like I told Letterman: It’s been a journey, but I wouldn’t change a minute of it for anything.”