PITTSBURG — Kav Fest is set for Saturday in honor of Maj. Brian Kavanagh and to generate money for charity through VetLinks.org.
Kavanagh died unexpectedly in 2016 at the age of 37, leaving behind a wife, Jessica, and daughters, five-year-old Meryn and three-year-old Evelyn. He was a graduate of St. Mary’s-Colgan High School and Pittsburg State University. Kavanagh received multiple Bronze Stars from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Kavanagh was diagnosed with PTSD in in 2012, brought on by his experience as a ranger in the Army.
Soldiers and veterans have benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. The family reached out for immediate help, but found themselves on a six-week waiting list.
Jessica said she first noticed signs of PTSD around 2009, but it wasn’t until 2014 they realized it was time to find someone to help outside the VA.
“At the beginning of 2014 we realized he needed help,” she said.
She said Brian had an array of symptoms ranging from anxiety, to sleepiness and having difficulty focusing.
“He became detached a little bit,” she said. “He became more dependent on the medications that were being prescribed to him.
“He slept a lot and was becoming more depressed.”
She said when people need immediate care they should receive it then and not six weeks later.
“People need to get help right away,” she said.
By summer 2015 she said her husband was so depressed he couldn’t get out of bed.
The VA was called again to receive help, only to be put on another wait list.
“We had expected a magical answer to help with PTSD,” Jessica said. “All she offered was for him to go to a psych unit or an outpatient group.”
Jessica said those options were not good enough and she began to reach out to other VA’s and no one called back.
She then contacted advocates all over the country which resulted in Brian getting into inpatient care.
“That’s the amount of work we had to do to get him care,” Jessica said. “We were fighting an inside war to keep the family together and an outside war getting the care your loved one deserves.”
Jessica said Brian was the one who came up with the charity, VetLinks.org. She said while he was in inpatient care he met other veterans and heard about their difficulties getting the care they needed.
“When he got out [of inpatient care] he told me about his idea,” Jessica said. “There is a need for both veteran and caregiver [resources].”
Through VetLinks.org, veterans and their caregivers can find the resources that fit their needs.
The 501(c)3 non profit organization will be raising funds during Kav Fest to help subsidize the costs for care of PTSD — this is the fundraising stage of the organization.
Kav Fest was originally a big party established by Brian’s friends and family who live in Kansas to celebrate his life, but will now continue as a fundraising and memorial event.
The event will be at 7 p.m. at the Frisco Event Center. Tickets can be purchased online at eventbright.com searching for Kav Fest 2017 or at the door. General admission is $15 and $25 for couples. St. Mary’s-Colgan High School class of 1997 and U.S. service members and veterans will be admitted for free. There will be food, music and a silent auction.
“When Brian passed away I vowed in the eulogy to continue with his idea,” Jessica said. “He will move mountains from above and I will move mountains from down here.”
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.