While a Navy SEAL three years ago, the Roswell native and graduate of North Springs High in Sandy Springs saw a need for a charity to help severely injured veterans transition from active duty to civilian life or even return to military service. So he started the Phoenix Patriot Foundation, a nonprofit providing support to help them accomplish that goal.
“PPF was created out of necessity,” Ogden said. “I began PPF because after returning home from an Afghan deployment in 2010 I spent the majority of my post-deployment leave with my friend and platoon commander, Dan Cnossen. Seven months prior and during our very first mission, Dan sustained near life-ending injuries. One afternoon, while at Walter Reed [hospital in Washington], he and I were tossing the medicine ball and I had a conversation with myself and as we are throwing the medicine ball. I concluded that if I had sustained similar injuries to that of Dan, I would still want to get back to the fight through piloting UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles].”
Ogden, who 18 months ago left active duty with the Navy after serving for nearly eight years, is now director of operations at Asymmetric Solutions, a tactical training company in Farmington, Mo., near St. Louis.
To honor former soldiers, he is hosting the Veterans' Appreciation Day fundraiser at Cross of Life Lutheran Church in Roswell Saturday at 6 p.m. It will include a pasta dinner, recognition of veterans, a presentation of the colors, speeches by Ogden and triple amputee Tomy Parker, a mini-documentary about the foundation’s projects and live and silent auctions.
The following day, District 1 Sandy Springs City Councilman John Paulson will host a private event at his home to raise awareness of the foundation. Ogden said another fundraiser is planned for the spring in Sandy Springs but details are not ironed out yet.
Ogden said he appreciates what other veterans’ charities do but felt there was a niche for his, which he said goes further to aid seriously wounded veterans.
One example is the foundation’s Never Quit Challenges. Last month he took six critically injured veterans, two of which are double, above-knee amputees, on a six-day trip on jet skis from Key West, Fla., to New York, arriving at their destination Sept. 11 to commemorate the anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks. Two of the veterans on the journey were featured on NBC’s “Today” show.
Cnossen, who Ogden calls a “self-starter,” has transitioned well into civilian life, qualifying for February’s Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, in the biathlon, where competitors shoot a rifle at several targets and ski from one target station to another. But the foundation did donate equipment to Cnossen because the U.S. biathlon team’s budget is minimal, Ogden said.
As for Saturday’s fundraiser, he said last year’s event raised between $4,000 and $5,000 and he hopes to at least double that amount this year. As a whole, the foundation has raised more than $250,000 in 2013, Ogden said.
Cross of Life volunteer Jeanine Dismer, the church’s social concerns team leader, said it is happy to host the event.
“[The foundation] gives [veterans] hope and helps them to go ahead and reintegrate back into society so they can get jobs and they feel they can make a difference to the world,” she said. “They were very important overseas [while on active duty] but are just as important when they come back.”
If you go:
o What: Veterans’ Appreciation Day
o Benefits: Phoenix Patriot Foundation
o When: Saturday at 6 p.m.
o Where: Cross of Life Lutheran Church, 1000 Hembree Road, Roswell
o Tickets: $11 per person; veterans admitted free (pre-registration is recommended due to space limitations)
o Information: (770) 855-0007, (619) 772-2204 or visit www.phoenixpatriotfoundation.org or www.crossoflifelutheran.org