The people who love him say Brandon Ketchum would be pleased.
Though too late for Brandon, his suicide now stands to help other broken veterans.
Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, this week introduced legislation that could just as easily be called the Brandon Ketchum Bill. The "Never Again Act" would require VA medical centers to provide in-patient psychiatric care for any veteran who asks for it. It's the kind of common-sense policy that many of us will be surprised to learn does not already exist.
“After Sgt. Ketchum’s heartbreaking suicide, I met with various veterans, Veteran Service Organizations (VSO) and community members to develop this legislation," Loebsack wrote in an announcement. "Our veterans have sacrificed too much to ever feel alone when struggling with mental health issues.
"When these veterans reach out, we as a country owe it to them to answer their call."
As most of us know by now, Brandon, 33, of Davenport, reached out. He made an emergency appointment with his psychiatrist at the Iowa City VA on July 7.
The combat veteran with three deployments and the PTSD to prove it asked to be admitted.
He was turned down.
Several hours after leaving Iowa City, Brandon posted to Facebook his feelings of defeat: "I truly felt my safety and health were in jeopardy.
"They gave up on me, so why shouldn't I give up on myself?"
His partner, Kristine Nichols, found his body on July 8. He used a gun to escape the demons that followed him home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
At least 18 other members of Congress from both parties are co-sponsoring the Never Again Act. When contacted Thursday, a spokesman for the VA Medical Center in Iowa City said he was forwarding my request for a response to a public information officer. No word, yet.
"It sounds like one resolution," Nichols said Thursday of the proposal. "Nobody knows what would've happened if they had let him stay that day. I like to think he would have gotten the help he needed and moved on."
Though Never Again is a good start, she said, other policy changes would be helpful, too.
"I think they need to involve vets in their own care more," Nichols said. "They should be present in meetings about their care."
She also wonders if Brandon would still be alive if someone from the VA had let her know what had happened in Iowa City.
"I'm in the Caregiver Support Program, so there's no reason I couldn't have been involved," she said.
The doctor who turned Brandon away later told Nichols he did not call her because he wasn't sure of the status of their relationship. Brandon had told the doctor that his PTSD and drug use were causing problems between them, she said.
"That should've been another sign to the doctor of another stressor for Brandon," she said.
In the two-plus months since his death, other veterans have rallied around Nichols and Brandon's family. Events in Iowa City and elsewhere have sought to raise money for his young daughter. His birthday is next month, and an Out of the Darkness Walk for suicide prevention was last weekend in Rock Island.
Last year, Brandon and Nichols did the walk together. He had great sympathy for and understanding of those struggling with depression and the temptation to end it all.
"We had 36 people in our group walking for Brandon," she said. "He walked it last year, because so many veterans commit suicide, and he had lost so many of them. I could see how hard it was on him. He had to use a cane, because he'd just had leg surgery from a couple of falls he took while serving.
"I remember when the speaker spoke, I held his hand, and he had tears in his eyes. We both did.
"I hope something changes. That's what Brandon wanted."