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Unique Program Helps Vets Ease Back Into Civilian Life

DUBLIN (CBS SF) -- A group of military veterans gathered at the Alameda County Sheriff's Office Regional Training Center Sunday morning for a day of bonding and camaraderie.

The gathering was part of a program called Ranger Road -- founded by a former Army Ranger and San Mateo police officer Mikhail Venikov. It's designed to maintain the common bond between service people and possibly relieve some of the isolation they can feel after returning to civilian life.

"Today, veterans and their families were able to come out to the Alameda Sheriff's Dept. and participate in a range day shooting various types of guns," Venikov said.

Laura Lewis, a Medical Corp nurse during the Vietnam War, got to spend time on the range firing an AR-15. Even though she never saw combat, the war still caused emotional pain for her. She feels comfort during these gatherings, spending the day with fellow veterans.

"I just feel a connection with other veterans," she told KPIX 5. "I love my veteran friends, I really do. It's like helping one another."

It's a feeling Blake McKernan shares. He served one tour in Iraq and believes everyone who deals with war has some kind of scars from it.

"There's a whole lot of side-effects that's hard for hospitals or the normal civilian to sympathize with or understand what that person's going through," he said.

But McKernan said it felt good to put his training back in use with an 1800's-era Winchester rifle.

"Like a type of counseling, you would say -- coming out here to lay down some lead down-range," he said. "It's a good feeling...brings back old memories, mostly good, some bad but, all in all, it's a great time."

All of Ranger Road's activities, like a skydiving adventure in Davis, serve as a way to foster camaraderie and get veterans who may be having a tough time out of door and back into life.

"They may be depressed or sad or something is not going their way and we try to get them out of that bubble and lend a hand and push them in the right direction one step at a time," Venikov said.

Ranger Road is based in Sacramento, but serves many veterans in the Bay Area. They rely solely on donations and if you'd like to learn more or contribute go to

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