William “BJ” Ganem served four years on active duty in various capacities. At the end of his first enlistment in 2000, he decided to leave active duty but stay in the ready reserves by joining with Gulf Co 2nd BN 24th Marines located in Madison, WI. He was working as a District Sales Manager for Kraft Foods in May 2004 when his unit was called to serve in support of operations in Iraq.
On November 25, 2004, Thanksgiving night, BJ was on patrol when the vehicle he was driving was struck by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). BJ lost his lower left leg, suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury, and sustained various other wounds from the blast. Three other Marines were injured, and one was killed in the explosion.
My recovery process was and is a journey, but with the help of the Semper Fi Fund, I have been able to thrive in life with support from the Fund and the opportunity to be challenged through sport with Team Semper Fi, and education with Semper Fi Fund Odyssey – BJ
BJ was medically retired on October 29, 2005. He transferred his care from Walter Reed in Bethesda, MD to the William S. Middleton VA hospital in Madison, WI where he currently continues his ongoing recovery. In total, BJ endured nineteen surgeries, to include removal of shrapnel from his legs and arms, removal of glass shards in his left eye, and a revision of his initial amputation.
Over the years that followed his injury, BJ faced many challenges as he tried to transition back into a “normal” life, coping with his injuries and emotions. Thanks to the Semper Fi Fund, a few other nonprofits, the VA, and the support from the Marine Corps and his family, BJ’s life began to turn around.
The Semper Fi Fund purchased me a hand cycle so I could stay active and competitive. They also helped with modifications of my floors and bathrooms to make it easier for me to move about my house and take care of my children.
In 2011, BJ left Kraft Foods after a career of ten years in pursuit of his passion for helping other veterans as the Dane County Veteran Service Officer. In 2013, BJ joined the Semper Fi Fund family to help start a new program called the Veteran 2 Veteran program – Veteran Leads, such as BJ, work to help service members understand and gain access to various programs such as VA Health Care, Tri-Care, VA Education Benefits, and a wide variety of community and nonprofit programs that offer opportunities for these service members to enrich their lives.
I am happy to have the opportunity to give back as the V2V Lead for the Midwest region at the Semper Fi Fund. As an accredited Veteran Service Officer, I help fellow veterans understand and gain access to the benefits they have earned through their service as well as provide a broad scale of mentorship in hopes that we can become the most successful generation of veterans that our nation has ever seen.
BJ married his wife Sarah in 2011 and they are expecting their first child together this August. They live in Reedsburg, WI with BJ’s children, Dylan (13) and Mackenzie (11). BJ is currently enrolled at USC’s School of Social Work, where he is completing his Master’s in Social Work with an emphasis on military life.