Omaha veterans, service members offer adventures to honor first responders

Three men have turned to adventure as a way to honor veterans and first responders.
Published: Sep. 9, 2023 at 10:25 AM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - On September 11, 2001, our vocabulary changed. It’s the day America came to understand these words: first responder.

”You’re having the worst day of your life, you could be losing a loved one, your house could be on fire, it could be 9/11, it could be the pandemic,” Bravo Zulu Adventure Group co-founder David Munoz said. “You couldn’t see your family, the nurses were your family, they run in at your time of need. That’s important to us, to make sure they’re being honored and taken care of.”

David was a junior in high school when 9/11 happened and has essentially been in the National Guard ever since.

Shaun Burdess was already serving, stationed with the Marines in Okinawa.

“It was about 10 or 11 o clock p.m., went down to the base, they shut down the base,” Burdess said. “Got behind a machine gun and posted behind a machine gun for a couple solid weeks.”

Now Shaun and David and fellow guardsman Dylan Andelt founded Bravo Zulu Adventure Group, helping first responders and fellow service members connect by jumping their cares away through skydiving.

“One of my favorite parts about being under canopy is just the peacefulness of it, there’s not a whole lot of noise there’s not a whole lot of anything else, it’s just you and you’re flying,” Andelt said. “It takes your mind off everything else that’s going on, it’s nice to hit that reset button on life and enjoy what you’re doing and where you’re at.”

“It was my way of getting back and reconnecting with the veteran communities serve and honor those that serve others, and that’s why we do it with veterans, healthcare workers, first responders, and their family members,” Burdess said. “So if there’s a way we can give back, this is the way we want to do it.”

Giving that feeling to fellow service members, first responders, and their loved ones is what their non-profit strives to deliver. On Friday, they took off in a Cessna 182 from Millard Airport, flew over the Elkhorn River, and got a good look at Omaha before jumping at 10,500 feet, skydiving to their landing in an Elkhorn field behind Bottles and Barrels.

“Just seeing that look on his face of just pure joy was definitely worth anything I’ve had to do,” Andelt said.

“Pretty awesome, I wanted to do it my entire life,” first-time skydiver Jimmy Ellsworth said.

The three co-owners are heavily experienced in skydiving, and they work closely with Trina Zomers and Jump Omaha. Long-time area skydiver Charles Crinklaw worked as tandem instructor on this jump, while Rick Buesing was the pilot. They all want to see this venture succeed as an avenue of escape for first responders.

“We know how much skydiving can affect mental health in a positive way, so that’s a guiding factor to starting this,” Munoz said.

There are other adventures offered to first responders by the non-profit, as well, including diving trips, hunting, and plans for ice fishing this winter.