Plus, how this former sniper uses his DECKED loadout to fuel his life.
By Brent Hannify | September 2, 2022
US Army veteran Lucas O’Hara is a trained sniper, a blacksmith, a knife maker, and an experienced overlander. As one might expect from someone with those kinds of credentials, he’s absolutely brimming with valuable lessons about how to be a good man in these frenetic times. Lucas’s journey toward figuring out what kind of man he was started as soon as he enlisted.
Even at age 18, Lucas was huge. If you’re a 6’7” male, you’d expect the Army to be very interested in recruiting you. But when Lucas signed up, even at his towering height, he weighed 20 pounds under the minimum weight requirement. The Army raised an eyebrow.
But Lucas wasn’t about to let a clipboard determine his future. As it turned out, the Army had a system in place for underweight recruits to meet their standards.
“I was instructed to eat as much as I could in thirty minutes,” Lucas remembers. “For the first half-hour of PT, I was eating while the rest of the platoon was getting their asses kicked.”
Not that it was especially pleasant for him. He had to gain 20 pounds in six days, and after chowing down, he had to go right into training alongside everyone else. Sure, the drill sergeant would let him have about an hour to digest whatever he'd just eaten but Lucas would still vomit during regular PT. But he persevered, eventually reaching the recommended weight and graduating alongside the rest of the platoon, fulfilling his young life’s dream of joining the Army.
He only had eyes for one job as a soldier—he wanted to become a sniper. Since he was a teenager, his personal heroes were Delta snipers Randy Shughart and Gary Gordon, who gave their lives attempting to secure the crash site of Michael Durant in the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993. With hard training and those two legends on his mind, Lucas succeeded in becoming a US Army sniper, ultimately deploying to Iraq and Africa multiple times during his career.
A seasoned outdoorsman, Lucas spends as much time as he can in the wilderness.
After getting out of the military in 2013, he worked as a contractor for two more years. Only those with military experience can know the somewhat contradictory peace one can enjoy in war. It’s something to do with the regimented nature in life, Lucas imagines. “I liked being told where to go and what to do. Meals are taken care of. Your housing is taken care of. Everything just makes sense.”
Doing contract work and staying involved in deployment life kept him connected to the military world in the way he needed. But every soldier stops soldiering eventually. After his contract work came to an end, he wondered what to do next.
One day he attended a blacksmithing class. He was given a railroad spike and told to fashion a knife out of it. Always one to follow orders, he got started. The spike took shape with every hammer strike and quench of the steel. Lucas found a new passion.
Eventually he founded Grizzly Forge, his brand specializing in handmade bushcraft knives. For Lucas, making knives is more than just a job. It’s a way of staying connected to that kind of focused, disciplined energy that combat required.
“If you’re a veteran, especially a combat veteran, you’re used to a certain pace of life,” he says. “Everything moves quickly, everything’s got a bit of danger to it. I find all of that in the forge.”
Lucas specializes in bushcraft knives—the kind of multipurpose blade for the myriad of needs one might have in the outdoors, and one that just might save your life in a tight spot. Everything from feathering firewood to skinning animals requires something tough, robust, and properly heat treated, so each Grizzly Forge knife is handcrafted from 80CRV2 high carbon steel, with gorgeous attention to detail from handle to tip. Each blade is a work of art designed to last a generation.
Original Grizzly Forge creations.
With every knife Lucas makes, he tries to learn something new each time. Striking an especially Zen tone, he drops some wisdom: “Even a master of his trade still has something to learn. The willingness to learn is what makes him a master.” He applies this kind of thinking to just about everything in his life, from being a father, a husband, an outdoor enthusiast, or just a man trying to make his way in the world.
With two kids under the age of 5, Lucas capitalizes on every opportunity to gas up his custom F-150 and head into the outdoors to spend time with his family. He found life was more colorful without a screen in front of his eyes. Nothing but the challenge of the terrain under his truck and the question of what to cook for dinner under the stars.
“I didn’t build my truck for the Instagram clout. I built it for myself so I can escape and spend time with my family. And when you’re way out there in the wilderness without service, it forces you to sit with your kids and throw rocks into the pond for an hour.”
That’s the kind of Lucas O’Hara wisdom any American should find useful.
What’s the purpose of your build?
My rig lets me and my family get as far away from people—and cell service—as possible. I work ridiculous hours during the week, so when I get to spend time with my wife and kids, I want to be 100% involved. No cell phones. No screens. Kodiak gives me the opportunity to get away and focus on what’s important in your life.
What aftermarket additions can you not live without?
It sounds obvious, but my DECKED Drawer System. It was the first thing I purchased for my truck when I got it four years ago. When I’m camping with the family, organization is key, and it helps keep everything stored and safe.
Speaking of organization, how do you keep all your gear organized in your rig?
A lot of this probably carries over from my military days, but organization is a big part of my life when it comes to overlanding. Especially medical and recovery gear. I keep all those things separate from the other standard camping equipment in my Drawer System. Traveling with small children, especially over long distances and without cell service, means you need to know exactly where everything is in your rig so you can get to it fast in an emergency.
What else is in your Drawer System?
That changes daily. Camping gear. Rifles and ammo. Archery and hunting equipment. If I’m headed to work, I store my blacksmithing tools. It depends what I’m up to.
How has DECKED changed the way you use your rig?
There’s huge value in being able to just grab gear, neatly arrange it in the Drawer System, and hit the road. I honestly have about 20 D-Boxes in my garage already packed and ready to go.
If you won the lottery, what would you add to your rig next?
I’ve already won the lottery in life, and I’m living exactly how I want to. I saved for a really long time to build my truck and it’s exactly how I want it.
Maybe check back with me in a few years.