New nonprofit seeks to connect post-9/11 vets in Connecticut

Hartford — A group of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in Connecticut have started a nonprofit to foster camaraderie among post-9/11 vets and encourage involvement in the larger veterans community.

The organization, Vets Space, held its soft launch on Sunday and also marked Veterans Day, which took place a day earlier, at City Steam Brewery Cafe in Hartford. The event drew about 25 people, and organizers have other get-togethers planned.

Co-founder and President Steve Kennedy, of Fairfield, a former Army infantryman, described the need for an "entry level" organization for transitioning vets in a news release announcing the launch of Vets Space.

"It's hard to realize how important those connections are until you make them," Kennedy said. "When I got out of the Army, I only cared about the vets I had served with directly. It was years before I attended a veterans event, and it really woke something up inside of me. The sense of camaraderie was incredible. It felt like I had known these people for years."

John O'Hare of Bridgeport, co-founder and former soldier, noted in the news release the "powerful experience" of spending time with vets "who have been through similar things as you, and who have context for such an important part of your identity." The group's motto is "the best thing for us, is us."

Post-9/11 vets are more likely to come out to events hosted by their contemporaries and, once involved, Vets Space can help them link up with other local organizations, if need be, said co-founder Josh Stark of East Hartford, a sergeant in the Marine Forces Reserve.

For the last two years, Vets Space has operated as part of the Connecticut chapter of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, hosting dozens of events across the state, oftentimes partnering with other veteran organizations. It rapidly grew to the point where it made sense to become its own standalone organization.

Funds raised through the nonprofit "will only be spent" on local vets, said Josh Hubbard of Waterbury, co-founder and former member of the Army and Connecticut National Guard.

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