Shelton police lieutenant hits the road for military vets

SHELTON - Robert Kozlowsky certainly went the extra mile last month in support of military veterans.

Kozlowsky, Shelton police lieutenant and board president of Bridgeport-based Homes for the Brave, ran personal bests in all three races offered through the annual Marine Corps Marathon - taking this once-in-a-lifetime challenge in honor of those military veterans “who have fought for our freedoms.”

Kozlowsky had run in the Marine Corps Marathon the past two years, but this year, due to COVID-19, the race was canceled. Race organizers switched to a virtual format, with runners able to complete their choice of marathon anytime between Oct. 1 and Nov. 10.

“This was a chance to challenge myself,” Kozlowsky said about the decision to run the regular marathon, the 10K and the 31-mile Ultra marathon.

Kozlowsky, who started running with a group only five years ago, finished the marathon in 3:49:24, the 10K in 45:05 and the Ultra marathon in 4:42:26.

The benefit to the virtual format was being able to pick the day and time to run, but the lack of the crowd support and people to run alongside made the runs that much more grueling.

While he had run the other marathons lengths in the past, Kozlowsky said the Ultra marathon left him physically drained, especially at about the 28-mile mark.

“It really became mental for me … your body wants to quit so you have to keep fighting,” said the longtime Shelton resident. “I actually started to become delusional … to get through it, I just started doing the multiplication tables. I kept doing them to help forget the pain.”

Kozlowsky ran each race a week apart in October.

“It gave me a real sense of accomplishment,” Kozlowsky said.

For Kozlowsky, this is just the latest effort on his part to support military veterans. He was recently reelected board president for Homes for the Brave, a Bridgeport-based operation that has served more than 1,200 homeless men and women, mostly veterans, with housing, vocational training and life skills coaching.

Homes for the Brave, which opened in 2002, is a 42-bed transitional housing program available to male veterans and non-veterans who are homeless with a staff focusing on helping every individual achieve goals for housing, employment and independent living.

The main Homes for the Brave facility sits at 655 Park Ave. in Bridgeport, where residents have access to a fully-stocked kitchen, laundry room, computer lab, social meeting areas, and even fitness memberships at the Cardinal Shehan Center. Each resident can live on-site for two years and assists with daily chores.

Over the past year, Homes for the Brave has served 181 individuals, including children. Out of the 177 adults offered aid, 133 were discharged and 44 remained in one of the three housing programs beyond June 30, 2020.

Homes for the Brave provided 17,106 nights of safe shelter, 17,120 meals, 520 hours of life skills training, 350 hours of computer education, and found employment for 86 percent of residents who used its services.

Kozlowsky said the facility has remained open during the pandemic, offering normal services with extra safety protocols in place. He said there has not yet been any increase in demand, but many experts say the veteran population will soon need services such as those offered at Homes for the Brave.

“We have not closed our doors,” Kozlowsky said. “We are changing ways in which we raise money for our services … but we will always be here for those who put their lives in the line for all of us, to protect our freedoms.”