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The mission of Wisconsin Hero Outdoors is to help connect Veterans, First Responders and their families to outdoor activities in Wisconsin. We operate in 3 primary ways:

  1. Coordinate with VA Medical Hospitals across Wisconsin to help Veterans involved in VA care gain access to outdoor activities and programs.
  2. Collaborate with other Veteran Service Organizations and Non-Government Organizations to focus time, money and resources to offer outdoor activities to groups and individual Veterans, First Responders and their Families.
  3. Coordinate Small group and individual outings for Veterans, First Responders and their Families.

Our core values are “Honor. Courage. Conservation.” and we operate Wisconsin Hero Outdoors as a 100% volunteer force. No one form of therapy is a perfect fit for everyone and helping make a variety of options available to our Veterans, First Responders and their families is the goal of Wisconsin Hero Outdoors.

Meet Our Team

Eric Falkner

Co-Founder & Executive Director

Eric began his military service in 1999 in the Army ROTC program at Marquette University and shortly after 9/11 he enlisted in the US Marine Corps where he was medically discharged. Following the Marine Corps, Eric worked as a Senior Regional Manager in the Securities, Insurance and Mortgage Financial Services industry overseeing over 2 dozen representatives in WI, MN and IL. He’s also worked as a Firefighter, Fire/Rescue/Dive Team, and Dispatcher.

In addition to being the Co-Founder & Executive Director of Wisconsin Hero Outdoors, Eric is currently finishing his degree at Marquette University in the College of Business Administration with a major in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Eric is a father of two boys ages 4 & 1.

Jason Bartol
Co-Founder & President – Board of Directors

Jason served over 12 years in the United States Air Force, also worked as a Franklin Police Officer and subsequently a Federal Air Marshal where he was medically retired. Jason co-founded Wisconsin Hero Outdoors and serves as the President of the Board of Directors and is a stay-at-home dad for his 2 girls.

Nick Harnish
Vice President-Board of Directors

Nick enlisted in the U.S Army at the age of 17, he then spent most of his young adult life serving his country as an Infantryman and a University Resource Officer. Nick left the protective service industry to work in Outdoor Adventure/Education and Youth Development. Nick has worked throughout the country running high adventure programs, camps, and residential educational facilities. Nick now serves as the State Program Coordinator for the WI national Guard Child and Youth Services and is finishing his Master’s of Science Degree in Human Ecology and Public Humanities. Serving as Wisconsin Hero Outdoors’ Development Director and Vice President of the Board allow him to combine his service experience, with his education and his passion for healing through the outdoors and eco-therapy. 

Robert Johnson
Co-Founder & Operations Director
Board Secretary & Treasurer

Robert began his career by starting a painting business in Illinois shortly after graduating high school.  He then used that business to pay for studying Business Administration at Western State of Colorado.  Then he joined the Army in Montana which took him to Washington State where he was an Army Ranger with the 2/75 Ranger Regiment.  5 years later he left the military and started Cascade Home Inspections, Inc.  During that time, he also started another business called Northstar Digital Media, Inc in which he provided internet solutions to small and medium size businesses.  When the terrorist attacked on 9/11, he felt the need to serve his country again and became a Federal Air Marshal. Adding another business to his resume, Robert now runs a small garment and promotional company called Specink Designs, LLC.   Co-Founding and serving as the Chief Information Officer of Wisconsin Hero Outdoors, Robert has a wide and diverse background to accomplish the mission of helping those who serve and served.

Matthew Cade
Trout Unlimited Veteran Service Program Liaison

Matthew served 12 years in the United States Coast Guard as a Boatswains Mate. Matt is a graduate of the Journalism Program at UWM and serves on a variety of Veteran Service Organizations specializing in helping connect our Heroes to the art of Fly Fishing. Both Matt and his wife work full time at the Milwaukee VA. Together they have two beautiful girls.

Tyler Thiede
Northwest Wisconsin Program Coordinator

Tyler has been with us from the beginning, donating his business (Small Craft Outfitters) fleet of Feelfree Kayaks, Bending Branches paddles, and guide services to various events in Northwest and North Central Wisconsin.

Tyler lives in the small town of Spring Valley, Wisconsin with his wife and two kids and has a passion for kayak fishing and the outdoors. There he is an IT consultant by day, a small business owner and volunteer EMT in his free time. Tyler also helps benefit WHO through his custom rod building. He builds a custom “Responder Line” of open water and ice rods. Some are donated to local police, fire, and EMS department fundraisers. For any custom orders, part of the proceeds are donated to Wisconsin Hero Outdoors!

JD Englehardt
Southcentral Wisconsin Program Coordinator

JD Engelhardt joined the US Army after graduation from High schools. He served in the military for four years deploying to Iraq once as a Combat Engineer Then he attended Augustana College in Rock Island Il for his BA in Political Science, Communication studies, and Religion studies. After graduating college, he started his career working for Non-profits, first by spending a year doing service work in Madagascar, now works in Madison Wi, as for Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Allison Kitzerow
Assistant Public Relations Coordinator

9/11 happened during Allison’s sophomore year at Marquette University, and a few months later, she enlisted in the Army Reserve and went to Basic Combat Training and Military Police School. At the start of the Iraq War in 2003, her Army Reserve Unit deployed to Kuwait and Iraq. They built a prison camp called Camp Bucca and served as prison guards at that camp until Feb. 2004.
When Allison returned home from that deployment, she finished her Bachelor of Arts at Marquette, and used the GI Bill to obtain a Master of Arts from UW-Milwaukee. She completed nine years of service in the Army Reserve and got out in 2011 as a Staff Sergeant.
In early 2019, Allison started working as a Global Communications Manager at Johnson Outdoors, a global outdoor recreation equipment company that inspires people to get out into the great outdoors. Soon after, she also started participating in and volunteering at Wisconsin Hero Outdoors events, including learning how to fish for the very first time this past summer! Beyond being an outdoor enthusiast, she loves to explore the world—recently traveling solo to Iceland, Portugal, the Azores Islands and Spain.

Jeff Butler

Northcentral Area Program Coordinator

Jeff is a Vietnam era Army Veteran who served from 71’ to 74’. After his enlistment, Jeff spent time developing outdoor adventure programs for youth in California before moving back to Wisconsin and continuing other youth outdoor programs. Jeff has also served with Outward Bound in Minnesota where he developed programs to assist Vietnam Veterans coping with Post Traumatic Stress. Now serving with the National Park Service on the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, Jeff assists Veterans in the Northwoods of Wisconsin through kayak and fly fishing trips, among other activities. Jeff is also a recipient of the 2015 Wisconsin Veteran Advocate of the Year Award by the County Veterans Officers Association of Wisconsin for his duty with Vets on the River.

Tammy Sawyer
Development Director

Tammy joined the Wisconsin Hero Outdoors team in the summer of 2019. With a strong background in digital marketing, project management, event planning, and volunteerism, Tammy assists WHO with a variety of elements within the organization. Her involvement ranges from fundraising, operational, and long term strategic growth events that support the Wisconsin Hero Outdoors Mission.


Brian Stenz
Northeastern Wisconsin Area Program Coordinator

In May of 2019, Brian started running Wind Power Surf Shop in Fond du Lac, WI. In March 2020, he took over full operations of the shop, and the shop became known as Wind Power Watersports. Specializing in old windsurfing parts, many of which are 15-20 years old or more, custom-making adaptive parts to work with new gear. Wind Power Surf Shop sells and rents kayaks, paddleboards, windsurfing gear, and Kiting gear. We hope to offer a full range of instruction in each of these areas soon. We repair all types of equipment from fiberglass surfboards, paddleboards, kites, canoes, and small sailboats. We maintain a full weather station system for Lake Winnebago featuring cameras and wind indicators in Neenah, Menasha, Appleton, Oshkosh, High Cliff, and Fond du Lac.

Brian’s Experience:

Army National Guard 2 years Mechanized Infantry. Army Active Duty 4 years UH-60 Blackhawk Mechanic Crew chief (medical discharge). 7 Years Area 2 Dive Rescue covering 13 counties in Western Kentucky. 7 Years Hopkins County Emergency Management Volunteer. 7 Years Hopkins County Kentucky Volunteer Firefighter. 22 Years Liberty Parachute Team Airshow support and Rigger. Host staff and Organizer for the World Ice and Snow Sailing Association WISSA 2015 and 2019 Fond du Lac. Ice Windsurfing and Kiting events.


Jesse Miller
Southeast Wisconsin Area Program Coordinator

Jesse enlisted into the Marine Corps after graduating high school in 2000.  While serving ten years of active duty service as a combat engineer, Jesse deployed with First Marine Division during the ground invasion of Iraq.  His duties included explosive demolitions as well as operating bridge erection boats on numerous Iraq water bodies. During this time he had the privilege of serving under General Jim Mattis, who went on to become Secretary of Defense. Jesse also participated in joint services training with the Spanish Army in Zaragoza, Spain.  As well as serving at Camp Fuji, Japan, Sergeant Miller facilitated combat training for hundreds of Marines deploying from Okinawa . Sergeant Miller returned to Fallujah, Iraq where he served as squad leader during another combat tour, dealing with IEDS and vehicle borne attacks. During this Fallujah deployment, Jesse’s son Jack was born, back in the United States.

After ten years of service Jesse returned home to West Allis, Wisconsin. He was employed with Siemen’s Global where he performed engineering solutions. He concurrently completed firefighting and paramedic training at MATC and WCTC respectively.  Jesse enjoys sports and coaches youth basketball.



Wisconsin Hero Outdoors Inc is committed to equal employment and volunteer opportunity without regard to age, ancestry, disability, national or ethnic origin, race, religious belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, political belief, or veteran status. This policy applies to all areas of employment and volunteer participation, including recruitment, hiring, training and development, promotion, transfer, termination, layoff, compensation, benefits, social and recreational programs, all other conditions and privileges of employment in accordance with applicable federal, state and local laws.