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Cars, and talk about PTSD to save vets’ lives

August 16, 2016 – Everyone agrees that at least on the surface an Aug. 20 event at Roberts Robinson Chevy GMC Buick is about vehicles.

Its name – 2nd Annual Car, Truck and Motorcycle show – gives that away.

But the show, held at the dealership at 1501 Kearney Rd. from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., places its emphasis on helping veterans deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – and for some, saving their lives.

The car meet might well be dedicated to the memory of Erik Kuhlman, a Marine-Army veteran and Excelsior Springs resident with PTSD who committed suicide Aug. 11, 2015.

Sara Kennedy, his fiancé at the time, said she believes it was side effects of Venlafaxine, a medicine prescribed for major depression and anxiety disorders, that led him to take his own life.

“After he started taking the PTSD meds he changed,” said Kennedy. “If you read the side effects of the medicine, it says it causes suicidal thoughts. Before he started taking the meds he was a happy man.”

Although Kennedy said she was aware he was suffering from PTSD, neither she nor car show co-organizer Ron Lowery had any idea that Kuhlman, 44, was contemplating suicide.

“We missed one last year on the east side of town who hung himself,” said Lowery, a Navy veteran who also suffers from PTSD. “We didn’t see that one coming.”

Lowery said he hopes the information and referrals available Aug. 20 can help prevent something similar.

Roberts Robinson and VFW Post 741 created the show as a fun event for community members, but its underlying goal was to pass out literature and tell veterans about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome counseling available through the Veterans Administration Outreach Clinic in Excelsior Springs and a number of other independent organizations.

“There are lots of vets who won’t talk to anyone about PTSD or suicide,” said Ron Lowery, a U.S. Navy veteran who served on patrol boats in both Vietnam and the first Iraq war. “That’s what we do, we listen.”

Lowery, 71, his wife Judy and Ed Derdich, another Vietnam veteran who is now a sales representative at Roberts Robinson, are the driving force behind the show’s PTSD emphasis.

Derdich served with a cavalry unit in Vietnam, ferrying to and from hostile fire on helicopters.

Mike Robinson, the dealership’s owner, and Roberts Robinson’s Pam Inzerillo took care of the rest – publicity, securing prizes for the car show and a raffle, recruiting car clubs, individual owners and public-safety agencies, and providing the site.


See the Tuesday, August 16 issue of the Standard for the full story

By David Knopf •

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