Too often, veterans returning home from combat zones aren’t getting the support they need.
That’s especially true if they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an often silent disability triggered by a traumatic event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. While PTSD can happen to anyone who has experienced trauma, it’s particularly common in veterans; while it occurs in approximately 7 to 8 percent of the general population, 11 to 20 percent of Afghanistan or Iraq vets, 10 percent of Gulf War vets and 30 percent of Vietnam vets suffer from PTSD.
In order to support these veterans, a group of volunteers has organized a benefit called the Victory for Vets Country Music Festival to take place Aug. 16 at Sharkey’s in Liverpool. The proceeds from the event will go to Clear Path for Veterans, a nonprofit based in Chittenango that provides support for returning veterans, including peer-to-peer support, classes, service dogs and more.
Heather Graham, who organized the event along with Richard Carlesco, said the event evolved from an idea for a barbecue earlier this year.
“The original idea was to be a staff appreciation barbecue [that would] raise money at the same time for a veteran’s organization,” Graham said. “Mr. Carlesco spoke with Bill Drace and Rich Lauber at B104.7 to see if they would support the event. They thought it was a great idea and a wonderful cause. Around the same time, while golfing in Chittenango, he stopped at Clear Path for Veterans with his cousin, Sean Lawless, who is a tech sergeant with the US Air Force and volunteers time at Clear Path to support local veterans. At that point, he decided that the money raised would go to this local charity.”
The event will take place on Saturday, Aug. 16, at Sharkey’s on Route 57 in Liverpool and will feature several popular local country acts. Gates open at noon; the first band starts playing at 1 p.m. The event includes food, drink and raffles. Presale tickets are $8, and tickets can also be purchased the day of the event for $10. Tickets are available at Sharkey’s, though their website at sharkeysbarandgrill.com, Clear Path’s website (Clearpathforvets.com) or by contacting Graham at 427-0749. Organizations or individuals that would like to donate in any way can contact Graham at 427-0749 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Graham said about 50 volunteers have been working to put the event together for about 10 months.
“We have been lining up bands, sponsors and donations, working on media support and ads and coordinating volunteer staff to help out with all aspects of the benefit before, during and after the day of the event,” she said.
Graham said she contacted the bands back in November to request their participation.
“[I] gave them the details on what we were planning, who the event was going to benefit and the dates we were looking at,” she said. “All four bands agreed to participate and we figured out a date that worked for everyone.”
They chose Sharkey’s based on the recommendation of B104.7, who pointed to its capacity for large crowds.
Graham said the committee hopes to raise enough money to provide eight veterans with service dogs, a total cost of about $64,000.
“If we can get 4,000 tickets sold, along with our sponsors, raffles and 50/50 drawings and other donations, we should be able to reach that goal,” she said.
She said it was important to recognize those vets who suffer from PTSD and to offer them whatever support she could.
“We are big believers in serving those that served us,” Graham said. “The veterans that suffer from PTSD are often marginalized by society and not given the same support as a member of the service coming home after losing a limb or suffering some sort of physical disability. This benefit is an opportunity to help provide these service men and woman with a chance to live a more normal life and show our support and appreciation for the service they have given our country.”
Graham said the Victory for Vets Country Music Festival will likely become an annual event.
“Our plan is to have [it] grow even bigger in the coming years with national acts performing,” she said.
For more information, visit facebook.com/events/494645270636775/.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.