Friends of an Iowa veteran who committed suicide earlier this summer are hosting a benefit Sunday to raise funds to support his daughter and other veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sgt. Brandon Ketchum committed suicide on July 8, after he reportedly was denied admittance to the Iowa City Department of Veterans Affairs Hospital hours earlier.
According to a post on his Facebook page, Ketchum, 33 of Davenport, went to the hospital July 7 seeking help with his post-traumatic stress disorder, only to be told to go home and take his medication.
In that post, Ketchum wrote that he was seeking assistance because he believed he was a threat to his own safety.
The matter is now being looked into by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General.
“I felt like something needed to be done,” said Sandy Behrle, one of the event organizers. Behrle is the mother of Capt. Derek Schroeder, Company Commander at the Iowa National Guard Davenport Armory, who was also Ketchum’s platoon leader during his tour in Afghanistan.
She first met Ketchum when she participated in the Family Readiness Group, a command-sponsored organization of family members and volunteers who support a unit before and after deployment.
“At that point, you know a mother’s worries — they’re all your sons,” she said.
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The benefit takes place at 10 a.m. Sunday at Schneids Bar and Grill, 205 Washington Ave. in Lowden. It includes a car show, live music, flea market, silent auction and raffle, as well as PTSD awareness events and the Patriot Guard Riders. Democratic Congressman Dave Loebsack plans to attend and give remarks.
“Over the course of several wars over the last decade, there is a better awareness of (PTSD)” Schroder said. But there are still preventable situations, where the signs are there but people are just not getting the help they need, and in some cases it results in death.”
Proceeds go to a trust fund for Ketchum’s four-year-old daughter as well as the Ketchum House, which is to one day serve as a weekend retreat for veterans struggling with PTSD and their families.
The idea behind the Ketchum House is to give families and veterans a free, stress-free environment where they can participate in counseling and other activities, said Chris Kemp, a marine who served with Ketchum for four years and is heading up the project. He also hopes families can build support networks with one another.
Land in Ladonia, Texas, a small town in the northeast portion of the state, has already been secured, Kemp said. There is a house on the land, and Kemp is searching for a contractor to discuss whether the house needs to be rehabilitated or completely rebuilt.
The group has already raised more than $1,600 through a Go Fund Me campaign, and other fundraising events are planned outside the benefit, including an auction and festival, Kemp said. He is also working to secure not-for-profit 501(c) (3) status.
“Families are the first line of defense against suicide,” Kemp said, “They’re the ones who are there, not the therapists. Living with someone who has PTSD is rough.”