Shelton police lieutenant continues aid for struggling veterans

SHELTON — Robert Kozlowsky is continuing his fight to bring attention to what he calls an epidemic of suicide among military veterans. 

Kozlowsky, longtime Shelton police lieutenant and board member of Bridgeport-based Homes for the Brave, is once again co-chairing “General Needs 1342 Mission,” the goal of which is to donate 1,342 pairs of boots (22 a day for 61 days over the two months) and 8,030 pairs of socks (22 a day for an entire year) in November and December to those veterans in need from Maine to Washington, D.C. 

Kozlowsky, alongside General Needs founder and CEO Lonnie Sherman, hit the road earlier this week, driving some 1,000 miles and stopping at facilities that aid veterans from Maine to Connecticut over two days. 

“This trip revealed that there are veterans throughout the country that need our help,” said Kozlowsky. “They sacrificed for us, and now it’s time to do our part.” 

Each set of boots and socks comes with a “Thank You” card from a child. And it is these cards, Kozlowsky said, that bring the most joy to the veterans. 

“We were at a veterans transitional facility in New Hampshire. One of the veterans opened the box with boots and saw the card,” Kozlowsky said. “He just said the boots are great, but this card means more than anything. He started to cry. It meant so much.” 

Donating the boots was only one part of the mission. The other, according to Kozlowsky, was continuing to raise awareness about the high rate of suicide among veterans. 

Kozlowsky said estimates of veteran suicides are as high as 22 per day. 

“General Needs, which is a 100 percent volunteer nonprofit, is raising awareness about the 22,” Kozlowsky said. “General Needs has no paid staff. Approximately 95 cents of every dollar go directly to a veteran.” 

General Needs was founded in 2008 to assist veterans, including those who are homeless, by providing new daily-living clothing. This can include items such as coats, jackets, hats, scarves, ski gloves, thermal underwear/socks, sweatshirts, sweatpants, blankets, footwear and toiletries. 

The 1342 Project began on Nov. 1, and other General Needs volunteers have made eight trips to locations through New York and Pennsylvania. 

Kozlowsky said during his recent trip, he heard stories of veterans who attempted to or contemplated suicide – which only further fuels his desire to continue his mission to assist those veterans in need and raise awareness, he said.

He said several veterans that he had visited recently had approached him and said they had attempted to kill themselves in the previous year.

“And they really appreciated the boots and, more importantly, knowing that people care about them," Kozlowsky said.

The team will be handing out pairs of boots for the next several weeks in New York and New Jersey before hitting the road again the first week of December for planned stops in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and wrapping up in Washington, D.C. 

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com