CT-based vodka company helps vets get back on their feet

CLINTON -- Transitioning into the labor force can be difficult for many veterans after serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

A Connecticut-based vodka company is on a mission to help veterans do just that.

“They feel like oh I went and risk my life and now nobody wants to help me get a job,” said veteran, Elon Red West.

What West describes is the plight of many veterans in the U.S. The mission of Salute American Vodka is go help veterans become their own bosses and get back on their feet.

“Where it’s a vodka that for every battle sold, the first dollar pf every bottle gets donated to a veterans charity,” said Vice President of Sales, Mike Lutz.

The vodka brand came to Connecticut in two years ago with the mission of funding the Connecticut nonprofit, Work Vessels For Veterans.

“That charity provides equipment to start a business or further their education or to just be more self-reliant,” Lutz said.

Co-owner John Niekrash met a veteran down on his luck about a decade ago. The veteran couldn’t find a job so Niekrash donated his own boat to help the man start his a lobster company.

Soon his story made headlines and began attracting donations of boats and other equipment from across the country. That’s how Work Vessels for Vets was born.

In 2016 Niekrash and his business partners bought Salute American Vodka from a business owner in the Midwest to help fund the charity.

“Donating the first dollar and every bottle to veterans, we really aim to be the most patriotic vodka that we could be,” Lutz said.

“So many soldiers, Marines store different branches that need help,” West said.

West is also a Rocky’s Aqua customer, which is one of the businesses that carry the vodka. He has 20 years of service under his belt, including time served in the Air Force as well as in Desert Storm.

He said a company like Salute American Vodka, which aims to help his fellow veterans, is something he can raise a glass to.

“They are all good people, and certainly if they need a helping hand I would be happy to help,” West said.