Army staff sergeant Ryan Knauss was one of 13 U.S. service members and 170 Afghans killed by a suicide bomber in Kabul, Afghanistan on Aug. 26, 2021.

In the words of Overseas bar manager Andy Sharf’s oft-repeated rallying cry: “All right Marathon, it’s that time again!”

Sharf’s series of fundraisers for deserving local causes have netted hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the bar staff at Overseas hopes this Saturday is no exception, albeit on a national scale.

Just in time for Veterans Day, Saturday’s event will benefit the Respect and Remember Memorial Foundation (R2 Factor), established in memory of army staff sergeant Ryan Christian Knauss. As one of the final U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Knauss lost his life along with 12 other service members and 170 Afghans at the age of 23 in a suicide bombing in Kabul on Aug. 26, 2021. 

Speaking to the Weekly by phone, Paula Knauss Selph, now a Gold Star mother and the foundation’s executive director, said the goals of R2 Factor are threefold: to provide scholarships and endowments to those enlisting in the military after high school or college, to provide care packages and welcome home packages for deployed troops, and to honor living veterans as well as those who paid the ultimate price in service to the country.

“You’ve got to do something with your anger and your grief,” she said. “I had to channel my anger and my frustration into something that will make a difference for other people and bring comfort to those who may face them in the future. … My purpose in life changed drastically with the loss of my youngest son.

“There are a lot of places I could be right now, but I will not dishonor all the effort and all the momentum that’s in such a patriotic place like the Keys. … Our whole board will be flying in from different parts of the country. I can’t tell you how honored I am to be coming.”

From open to close on Saturday, Overseas will offer raffle prizes, a wide-ranging silent auction (closing at 9 p.m.) and food and cocktail specials, paired with a cornhole tournament and full lineup of live music. As has become the standard for the bar’s fundraising events, 100% of bartender tips will go to benefit R2 Factor, and a “big ticket” item is on the table: a $6,000 golf cart, raffled off through $50 tickets in a drawing on Nov. 18.

“Paula is a pretty strong woman, and it’s a pretty crazy story,” Sharf said when asked why he chose to venture outside Marathon’s city limits for his latest beneficiary. “I remember I was working at Overseas when we had the news on and 13 service members were killed. The war was supposed to be over, and it was such a black eye on American history. 

“It was really, really profound on me and a lot of other people. … We decided to make this on Veterans Day to honor all those who are still with us as well as the ones who didn’t come home.”

Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.