A businessman from Garryowen is sponsoring two fundraisers in Billings on Sunday for the Shadow Warriors Project, which provides support for private military security contractors and their families.
Christopher Kortlander, director of the nonprofit Custer Battlefield Museum in Garryowen, a tiny historic town that he also owns, is putting on the fundraisers. A special guest at both events will be Mark “Oz” Geist, founder of the Shadow Warriors Project and a survivor of the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Geist is also one of the co-authors of “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi.”
At the first fundraiser on Sunday, “13 Hours,” a movie based on that book, will be screened at the Babcock Theater, 2812 Second Ave. N. Doors will open at 2 p.m. for a meet-and-greet with Geist, who will also be signing books, and the movie will be shown at 2:45. Tickets a $40 each.
Then, starting at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, there will be a dinner at the Shrine Auditorium, 1125 Broadwater Ave., featuring Geist and Harry Bologna, a former Navy Seal who had both his legs blown off last year while working as a private contractor for the U.S. government in Afghanistan.
There will also be a silent auction and what Kortlander describes as a “no-holds-barred question and answer session regarding the horrific events that transpired in Benghazi.” The dinner is $125 per person, with all proceeds going to the Shadow Warriors Project, Kortlander said.
Kortlander said he had been involved in supporting the families of deployed Navy Seals over the past several years, which is how he came into contact with Bologna, who retired from a 22-year career with the Seals before going to work as a private contractor. On a mission last October, he stepped on an improvised explosive device and lost both legs.
A few months later, Kortlander was watching a news show when he saw Geist talking about the “13 Hours” book. Geist also mentioned having started the Shadow Warriors Project. Kortlander found a phone number for Geist, called him and asked whether he knew of Bologna, who was then still at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
He did not, Kortlander said, but the two soon met and “now Harry is Shadow Warriors’ poster child, so to speak.”
Kortlander also began efforts to reach higher-ups with Paramount Pictures, which released the “13 Hours” film, hoping to arrange a benefit showing in Billings. He finally got sufficiently high in the studio hierarchy, received permission, and then spent more time working out the logistics of getting Geist and Bologna in Billings on the same day.
Although the controversy over what happened in Benghazi is still alive four years after the fact—with Donald Trump and many other Republicans blaming then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the loss of American lives—Kortlander said his interest in the book and the film is not political.
He said he is only interested in supporting Bologna and private contractors like him who were wounded while serving their country in a private capacity.
“Although the private security contractor may have served in the military,” Kortlander said in a press release, “he is considered a civilian and does not receive the same support offered to injured active military or veterans. The Shadow Warriors Project focuses on these contractors and their families.”
Tickets for both events are available at www.foreverahero.org. For dinner information and reservations, call Debbie Winburn at (406) 679-3793. You can also call Kortlander at (406) 638-2020.