22 a day. Some say that number is much higher, over 100 a day when all veterans are included. Even 1 a day is too many. It is an issue that everyone seems to know about, but no one really knows what to do.
For too many a soldier survived life in a war zone, but it is the rest of life they cannot overcome. This is a national tragedy, but playing out on a very personal scale.
One Gold Star mom’s answer is simple and to the point. “We have to give these kids hope that there is a tomorrow where people are waiting, willing, wanting and trying to help”. With help from a few amazing people, there will soon be a place to help as well.
Linda Kennedy lost her youngest son, Ryan Patrick to suicide less than two years ago. Among the countless changes in her life, one of the many she didn’t see coming was the outpouring and determination of others to help prevent this particular tragedy from breaking another mother’s heart.
Last spring, Linda had contact with another military mom whose son was hospitialized, just as Ryan had been. In the months since her son lost his battle with PTS, she has torn herself up, thinking of what she should have done, could have done or knowing what she now knows would have done differently. So, when this other mom reached out to her, Linda gave the advice she wishes someone had given her.
“Go to him. Go there and don’t leave until you are sure he is getting the help he needs”.
And that is what this mom did. Her son was released from the hospital, and was given an appointment several months away to see a psychiatrist. In the meantime, there wasn’t much to be done.
When she got back home, she contacted Linda and proposed a possible solution. She wants to get a house, a home, where our young heroes can go to heal in a safe, tranquil and loving environment. And she wanted to name it for Linda’s son.
The Ryan Patrick Kennedy House was born. Immediately, doctors, nurses, and a psychiatrist got on board, agreeing to donate their services. Locations in and around Traverse City, Michigan were scouted. And Linda decided to hold a fundraiser, benefit and awareness campaign here in Chicago, Ryan’s hometown.
That’s when things went into high gear. Dozens of Ryan’s friends, friends of her older son Paul, who just got out of the military and many of the moms Linda had been in contact with while her sons wore the uniform came together. Plans were laid and actions were taken.
The culmination is the “One House One Dream” benefit being held on March 23rd from 1:00pm to 6:00pm at 115 Bourbon Street Bar and Grill in Merrionette Park. You can join their FaceBook page here. The location was an easy choice, as it was a favorite hangout of Ryan and many of his friends.
With her personal army of more than 50 volunteers, they have put together quite an event.
There will be a band, “The Lady Upstairs” rocking 80’s favorites and a DJ in between the band’s sets.
There will be a buffet, including dessert and an open beer, wine and soft drink bar.
Of course, there will be raffles and a silent auction, with some pretty cool items offered, such as a Mike Ditka autographed football, a few other surprise premium items and this Gibson guitar, signed by every member of the band Styx.
They will have baskets to bid on, containing everything from a choice of two Pandora bracelets, a Black Hawks Black Ice Jersey, more than 75 gift certificates from just about everywhere anyone would want and lots of other goodies. A kind, generous veteran has even donated a counter-top oven and other cool culinary and kitchen gadgets.
For Linda, all this has been proof that people do care. More importantly, that people stand ready to help our warriors heal. And that has helped her to heal, just a little. With lots of love and support, Linda has come to understand that at the time, there was nothing she could do to save Ryan given all the circumstances. At least she understands that on most days. On those other days, she has the hope to cling to that maybe, just maybe, with the Ryan Patrick Kennedy House, others will be saved.
To support the Ryan Patrick Kennedy House, to make a donation, go here.
If you are or know anyone who is struggling with PTS, call Veterans Crisis line at 800-273-8255 or The Vet Center at 877-WAR-VETS.
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