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'Operation Scuttlebutt' fosters connections for local veterans


Veterans and community members pose for a picture after their first "Operation Scuttlebutt" event on Nov. 18 at Pisanello's Pizza. Pictured from left to right is Duane Kleinhardt, Joe Kalinski, Alexa Kalinski, Matt Miller, Cassie Thompson, Leland Thompson Morgan Harrington and Emily Feehery. 

"Operation Scuttlebutt," a local group looking to build relationships between veterans, had their first meeting on Nov. 18 at Pisanello's Pizza in Mount Pleasant. 

The event was hosted by U.S. Army veteran Joe Kalinski and his wife, Alexa Kalinski. Joe served as a medic in the Army from 2008 to 2016.

Alexa said "Scuttlebutt" is a military term that means "casual discussion" or "water cooler talk."

For Operation Scuttlebutt, they partnered with Hometown Battles, a non-profit organization that works with struggling veterans. 

The Kalinskis started the monthly, informal event to create a sense of brotherhood/sisterhood among veterans. The goal is to help prevent veteran suicide. 

Alexa said they have lost too many friends over the last few months due to their fight with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"We have had friends struggle with (PTSD) and lose their battles," Alexa said. "That's what drives us to do this." 

Alexa said it is important for veterans to create connections and maintain them over time. So, the meetings will be held monthly. 

She added that many veterans cut themselves off from family and friends because they don't feel a connection with them.

"I think it is important to know that you don't know what they're feeling because you've never experienced the things they have," Alexa said. "However, you can be supportive and a listening ear."

One veteran in attendance, Matt Miller, served as a U.S. Marine from 2007 to 2012 and worked for the Army until 2013. 

Miller said he has had a tough time adjusting to life outside the military and he liked the idea of Operation Scuttlebutt because of what it can do for veterans.

"It's a good opportunity to meet some people -- similar people," Miller said. "Also, it helps spread awareness about veteran suicide and PTSD."

He said this was the first thing he has done with other veterans since he returned home. 

The director of veteran's resources at Central Michigan University, Duane Kleinhardt, said "the worst place for veterans to be is out on their own."

Another participant, Emily Feehery, is associated with the auxiliary of pin ups called the "Battlin' Betties" and is the regional director for the central Michigan area. 

"We support veterans and first responders," Feehery said. "We focus on PTSD and mental health and try to help support (veterans) through their tough times."

The Battlin' Betties host numerous events across the state to help support others and she said they plan on partnering with Operation Scuttlebutt for future events. 

The next meeting will be on Dec. 9 at Riverwood Resort, located on East Bloomfield Road.

The Kalinskis are also involved with Ruck for 22, a non-profit that helps raise awareness for PTSD. To ruck is to move a long distance with heavy gear as a type of military training. 

Ruck for 22 holds a 22-mile ruck in Muskegon, and the Kalinski's said they would like to bring one to Mount Pleasant.