Police officer taking on suicide after his fellow Marine killed himself when turned away from VA

(left) Brandon Ketchum as a color guard at the Hult Center in Peoria, IL during a speech by a former Navy SEAL. (right) Brandon visiting is father's grave. (Facebook)

The comrade of a deceased US Marine veteran who made headlines after his suicide has founded an organization in honor of his fallen comrade, hoping to raise awareness and ultimately put a dent in veteran suicides.

When Brandon Ketchum took his own life over the summer after being denied treatment at a VA hospital in Iowa, Marine/Army Reserve veteran and former police officer Adam Hass was left with only memories of his boot camp buddy.

“One time, Brandon and I went to a Packers game in Green Bay,” Hass recalled. “I had an extra ticket [at the] last minute and I gave it to Brandon so he could come with. We got separated from each other, and Brandon left his phone in my car. He was able to use a stranger’s phone to have his mom send me a Facebook message so we could find each other.”

Hass, who met Ketchum in 2004 while they were at Marine Corps Recruiting Depot San Diego, said his friend was not only a caring and generous person, he had a very “unique sense of humor.”

“He convinced the DMV to issue him Marine Corps personalized license plates that said ‘FML’, because he told them it stood for ‘First Marine Logistics.”

When 33-year-old Ketchum took his own life after being denied voluntary admittance to a VA psychiatric ward, his community and loved ones felt a lasting aftershock of pain.

“It hurt everyone,” Hass recalled. “My wife would tell you I’m one of those people who keep all my feelings/emotions bottled up. The night I found out Brandon died I literally broke down in tears.”

After Ketchum’s suicide, Hass -along with his wife Erin- felt compelled to honor Ketchum by helping veterans who were struggling with PTSD and depression. In response to the loss, the two founded the Road Warriors Foundation.

According to their website, the Road Warriors Foundation is “a veteran non-profit organization. Our mission is to raise awareness, enlist support and end veteran suicide in America.”

The organization will be holding a 5k run/walk in Brandon’s honor on the 5th of November in Johnston, Iowa. Ketchum’s family will be in attendance and several members of Congress who represent Iowa have been invited as well.

With such overwhelming support, Hass hopes to show other veterans that they are never alone in their struggles, even though it took losing someone close to him to get the support network in action.

“I wish Brandon would’ve realized how many people loved him and would have done anything for him, Hass lamented. “People traveled from California, Texas and other states across the US for his funeral- we would have done the same to help him if he had asked. “

Details on the event can be found here.

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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