Kodiak Veterans Outreach formed in January with the goal of hosting at least one event per month for veterans and community members to give local veterans a network of like-minded people and promote understanding among the general population.
“After deployments and so many years in the military, you get out and the civilian world — the real world — it’s not the same. It’s hard to blend. It’s hard to get back into how everybody else lives. And so, a lot of guys come back and end up having a lot of issues,” said KVO president Thor Johnson, who has served 10 years in the Army, including a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
“22 veterans a day commit suicide, so reaching out to those like us and showing them that they have friends, they have people they can come to, they don’t have to be alone, it makes a difference,” he said.
The idea for the group came from a Veterans Affairs counselor who has since moved into another job. Johnson, Ishmael Vaudrin, Leonard Martin and Kayla Gordon ran with that idea and launched KVO in January.
“It’s not a support group,” Johnson said. “It’s just us getting together.”
The group is open to the entire community, rather than just to veterans.
“If you want to help us, don’t just send us a couple bucks or something. Come out, hang out with us, figure out what our actual problems are. Talk to us,” he said.
The group’s next event is a Saturday movie showing.
KVO will show “Range 15,” a crowdfunded zombie movie written, produced and starring veterans for veterans. The movie also features some recognizable faces, including William Shatner, Danny Trejo and Sean Astin.
“When you spend however many years in the military, it’s more of just trying to find the humor in everything than anything else,” he said. “I haven’t watched the movie yet, but I think these guys are going to do a great job of appealing to the dark sense of humor that we end up having after 10, 15 years in the military.”
Johnson describes the movie as a D-list horror-comedy that is not appropriate for children. Like all KVO events, the community at large is welcome to attend.
“I think it’s going to be hilarious and terrible,” he said. “Anybody who wants to come out and watch this terrible movie with us is more than welcome.”
The group will also hold a fish fry later this month, with proceeds from the $10 meals split between KVO and medical funds for Elianah Micael, a local teenager who lost her arm in an all-terrain vehicle accident in July.
Past events have included cleanup and shooting at the Anton Larsen range, and a community half-marathon during Crab Fest.
Johnson said they would love suggestions for future events. Group meetings are held at 7 p.m. every other Tuesday at Bayside Fire Station.
The “Range 15” screening will be at 8 p.m. Saturday at Bayside. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted.