Vet-Traxx, a local 501c nonprofit, looks forward to hosting the third Vet-Traxx Festival to benefit military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on Saturday, Sept. 21 at Veterans Field in Galt.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 11-20 of every 100 veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq (Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom) suffer from PTSD. Another 12 percent of Gulf War veterans and 15 percent of Vietnam veterans also reported suffering from PTSD, with an estimation that an additional 15 percent of Vietnam veterans went undiagnosed.
For Eric Lewis, a 20-year veteran of the Navy, the statistics hit too close to home, and he felt strongly that others might fight comfort where he did – in music. Having grown up in Texas, a career in music was always a dream for Lewis and, after burying many of the soldiers he trained and worked alongside, he returned to music as an outlet.
“For me, music is a heartbeat,” Lewis said. “You’ve got to have it.”
Lewis is now the drummer for Failure by Proxy, a Sacramento-based hard rock band. After Lewis started Vet-Traxx in 2017 with the goal of providing other veterans with an outlet through music, the band’s singer Jeremy Friedlander joined the nonprofit as the vice president. Now the two can be found together on stage and in the recording studio working with veterans to perfect their sound and overcome the invisible, yet lasting effects of military service.
The charity helps veterans (and their bands, if they have one) produce and distribute their music through streaming platforms like iTunes and Spotify. The original recording studio was largely built thanks to donations, and an East Coast location has just been added.
“The thing about PTSD is that a lot of guys don’t want that on their record,” Friedlander said, pointing out that this may lead some veterans to ask for help in subtle ways that are difficult for friends and family to recognize – or not to ask for help at all.
Vet-Traxx gives these men and women a safe space to express themselves through music or just to vent their frustrations with likeminded people like Lewis.
“There’s a lot of trust in that room, a ridiculous amount,” Lewis said. “It’s that whole bond we have as musicians.”
The Vet-Traxx Festival both feeds off that environment and funds it with local and national bands like Flaw, Bias, Elisium, Failure by Proxy, Lioncourt, Amongst Thieves, and others appearing at the festival. In addition to the live music and various food and drink vendors, a custom Bad Boy guitar valued at $2,800 will be raffled off.
With more than 800 people in attendance at last year’s event, organizers hope to have a turnout of 1,000 at this year’s Sept. 21 event. Proceeds will go toward the cost of operating the Vet-Traxx recording studio, and also serve to raise awareness on PTSD, other military disabilities, and Vet-Traxx’s work.
Tickets are available for sale online now. For more information, visit vet-traxxfestival.com.