Local benefit for veterans with PTSD goes on, despite organizer taking own life

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A benefit Friday night to help veterans in their fight against PTSD and depression was missing its organizer. Benjamin Kelley, 40, died by suicide March 1.

“This boot here belongs to my best friend Benjamin Kelly,” Damien Gunn said on stage at a packed No. 9 Saloon.

For the past two years Ben Kelley has taken the boot he wore while serving in the U.S. Navy and passed it around to collect money for AmVets and the Foundation for Exceptional Warriors. F.E.W. is an organization helping veterans deal with post traumatic stress disorder and depression.

“We believe the most dangerous place for a warrior right now isn’t down range in Afghanistan or Iraq or anywhere else they might be fighting in the world. It’s at home sitting on their sofa," F.E.W. Board Member Chris Wolfenbarger said.

“This was one of his ways to keep himself out of his own head by being with music people as well as helping other veterans in our community,” Gunn said.

When Kelley wasn’t engineering sound for the Damien Gunn Band he served as a crisis counselor for F.E.W.

“Ben was the guy when a wife or a husband called me and said hey my warrior is suicidal Ben was the person I would call and say hey I need you to call this person in 10 minutes, he was my go to person who talked these people off the ledge,” Wolfenbarger said.

That’s what makes what happened March 1st all the more perplexing.

“Anyone of these people was one phone call away, I talked to Ben that day,” Wolfenbarger said.

Kelley was at the benefit he helped plan tonight, his ashes sat in an urn beside the stage. Despite him taking his own life his band mates honored the pledge he made to help veterans in a continued battle long after they return home.

“We may not be able help everybody but the ones we help that's 100 percent for me, I’m just sad I couldn’t help my best friend," Gunn said.

Gunn plans to continue the annual benefit for veterans . A motorcycle ride in his honor for Amvets has also been planned for this Sunday at noon departing from No. 9 Saloon in Kansas City.