The Patriot Ball featured six Medal of Honor recipients, ice sculptures, a 50-foot American flag and a call for help for those veterans and active duty service members needing mental health resources.

CANTON Three men went to Vietnam in 1969 to serve their country. All three risked their life to help their comrades. All three were awarded the Medal of Honor in October 1973.

But all three didn't adjust well to life back home.

For Gary Littrell, retired U.S. Army command sergeant major who had bolstered a besieged battalion, the adjustment was easy. He said he was able to “turn the Vietnam switch off and the come home switch on.”

Gary B. Beikirch, a retired sergeant and special forces medic who tended to wounded soldiers even after suffering a spinal injury that left him temporarily paralyzed, the adjustment required him to be alone, really alone. He tried to go to college but after being taunted by classmates, Beikirch turned a cave in a New Hamshire park into his home. He lived there for two years.

Kenneth Kays, a former Army medic who continued to treat others despite being seriously wounded in the leg, died by suicide at age 42 in 1991. After leaving the service, Kays, the only person to receive the Medal wearing civilian clothing, struggled with addiction and had difficulty adjusting to the responsibility of receiving the most prestigious personal military award.

“I think the Medal killed him,” Littrell said Saturday.

Littrell, the keynote speaker at The Patriot Ball, implored the more than 600 people gathered at the Canton Memorial Civic Center to help prevent suicides among veterans and active duty service members by speaking up when the notice something amiss. He estimates that roughly 20 veterans and three active duty service members die each day by suicide.

“Help is there,” he said. “The numbers are too high.”

About the event

The Patriot Ball is an annual fundraiser for the Patriot Project, which aims to heal veterans, active military and their families, and Gold Star dependents through chiropractic techniques and nutrition instead of relying on pain pills and mood-changing drugs.

The event, which included a grand entrance with a 50-foot American flag hanging between two fire trucks, recognized six of the 74 living Medal of Honor recipients, as well as veterans, active duty service members and first responders.

“It’s a night to honor those that keep us free and those that keep us safe,” said Timothy Novelli, a North Canton chiropractor and founder of the Patriot Project. “We love and are grateful for their service.”

The event also was a celebration of a milestone for The Patriot Project. The organization started with a goal of recruiting 6,000 chiropractic physicians to treat the military, their families, wounded veterans and Gold Star dependents. It recently surpassed 9,000 chiropractic physicians providing care.

But many more chiropractors are needed, Novelli said.

“We need 20,000-25,000,” Novelli said. “We are on the front lines to stem the scourge of opioid addiction."

Dr. William Morgan, a veteran and chiropractor who practices at Bethesda's National Naval Medical Center, said more chiropractors also are needed in the U.S. military, which employs fewer than 100 chiropractors as subcontractors. He said he's treated the leaders in the White House, Congress and the Veterans Administration, but is dismayed that a service member in Okinawa doesn't have access to a chiropractor.

“What should be good for our leaders should be good for all of our men and women in service," he said. "… My own children in uniform must go get paid chiropractic care with their own money because it is so inaccessible under the current system (in the military).”

Reach Kelli at 330-580-8339 or kelli.weir@cantonrep.com.

On Twitter: @kweirREP