With an average 22 veterans committing suicide each day in the U.S., a group of music-loving friends decided to contribute their talents to help decrease the number.
One Accord for Veterans will host a fundraiser on Saturday, Oct. 5, from 4 to 11 p.m. at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7591, 301 Cottage Grove Road, Madison. Proceeds will go toward Dryhootch for a new 12-passenger wheelchair-accessible van, which provides 190 rides to veterans per month.
Tom Morrison founded the group in April 2018. He contacted his friends, Missy and Scott Boyd, to organize a fundraiser for veterans. They describe themselves not as a nonprofit, but as a group of friends looking to help veterans.
Morrison will play guitar and sing with his band, Speakeasy, this Saturday. Sharp Dressed Men, Mark David Group, QUEST and Mike & Mike Beatles Singalong will also perform.
There will be silent auctions, raffles and food.
The Milwaukee Brewers donated five signed baseballs, Fuegos head chef donated a private six-course meal for six people and a hand-made bass guitar made by marine Jason Rowe. The marine is making a second bass to gift to a veteran at the event.
“We just wanted to come alongside Dryhootch and help them,” Morrison said.
Morrison heard about Dryhootch, a nonprofit run by veterans for veterans. Dryhootch worked with Marquette University, UW-Milwaukee and the Medical College of Wisconsin to create curriculum veterans looking to mentor their peers. The 12-section curriculum teaches mentors about psychological conditions, aiding personal growth and helping those who are hurting.
Last year, $6,000 was raised for Dryhootch to provide two computers and peer training, which costs $700 per person.
Dryhootch connects veterans who will offer support and a safe place with coffee shops around the country.
“It provides that camaraderie that they were lacking when they came home, so it helps them get reintroduced into civilian life,” One Accord for Veterans member Missy Boyd said.
“The guys have been in the boots and they know what the other guys have gone through,” mic controller Chris Lanser said. “Sometimes the veteran, they won’t go and seek help, but they will talk to another veteran, because they’ve been in that place.”
Veterans may visit a few times before opening up, but trained mentors are waiting with open ears for when they do.
Female veterans face unique problems, such as leaving behind families and sexual assault within the military.
“There are many of our female veterans that are living out on the streets,” Boyd said. “They’re homeless, and their children are being raised by their grandparents.”
While none of the organizers have served, they are all close with veterans who fueled their desire to assist veterans.
Most of the men in Boyd’s family joined the Navy, including her brother who served in Vietnam.
“When he came home, he was not the same person who left for Vietnam,” she said. “He survived life back in the States for 10 years and then he … succumbed to suicide, which was devastating for my mother and our family.”
Her brother was honored at this year’s Ruck 22. Participants walked 22 miles, sometimes wearing backpacks with 22 pounds of items, to raise awareness for veteran suicides.
Morrison’s father-in-law, who was of Hawaiian and Japanese descent, was part of 442nd infantry regiment, the most highly decorated unit in World War II.
Lanser’s father and three uncles served in the military. One of his uncles was shot down and made a prisoner of war. His uncle never talked about the war until six months before he died.
“You get to really hear the heart of what he carried all his life without wanting to burden anyone else with the challenges and the trauma,” Lanser said.
“I guess I have a deep respect for what sacrifices are made, and it’s not just the sacrifices on the field, as I’ve learned, it’s the sacrifices back home, too,” he said.
As the event grows, One Accord for Veterans is looking for volunteers, especially those with backgrounds in event planning, marketing, public relations and fundraising. Those who would like to volunteer can email firstname.lastname@example.org.