On Tuesday, March 18, Missoula veteran Tristan Persico will receive a Champion of Change award from President Obama at the White House in Washington, D.C.

Persico is being honored for his work in conserving Montana wilderness and for helping his fellow veterans readjust to civilian life.

"Myself and Zach Porter from the Montana Wilderness Association got together and we wanted to create a veterans program," Persico said. " We came up with a veterans outreach program. We're organizing both back and front-county hiking and camping trips for veterans. We're bringing these guys and girls out to connect with other vets in a pristine environment, and its been real successful thus far,"

Persico said the idea came to him while he was serving in Afghanistan, where he worked as an Explosive Ordinance Disposal Technician for the U.S  Air Force from 2005 to 2011, and lost some close friends in the line of duty.

"I thought about it all the time while I was in Afghanistan," Persico said. "It was such a dreary place, that I thought about Montana a lot. When you finally do get back, you start thinking that there must be tons of people in the same shape, so we got the program started."

Persico said his military experience is helping with any potential nervousness in receiving an award from President Barack Obama in the White House.

"When I was in the military I was often assigned to the U.S. Secret Service," Persico said. "What makes me nervous is all the attention I'm getting, when what I really want to do is get out in the backcountry with other veterans."

Persico said veterans in the area can arrange for a backcountry trip simply by visiting the Montana Wilderness Association website.

The Champions of Change awards will honor 14 individuals who through innovative approaches, create opportunities for the next generation of Americans to take part in outdoor recreation and public lands preservation.

Tristan Persico with the Montana Wilderness Association