By Art Holliday
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - Linda Ricci misses her nephew, Adam Muffler.
"I knew him as the kid who rolled around on grandma's floor with my kids," said Ricci.
Muffler graduated from Webster Groves High School. As a Marine corporal, Muffler saw tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"After the second deployment he was a different kid and he struggled with anger and frustration," said Ricci. "Handling everyday complications became difficult for him."
Ricci says one of the ways Muffler coped was competing in mixed martial arts, one of his passions.
"One of the things he would say to the family is that that MMA fighting was helpful to him," said Ricci, "and he was managing anger and frustration best when he was training and in the gym."
At the age of 24, whatever Muffler was struggling with became too much. He took his own life November 4, 2012.
"It was the darkest winter for most of us," said Ricci. "It was the call you never ever want to get and I think everybody's constantly reflecting on things they would've done or would've said or would have urged him to do."
Ricci said Muffler's family is still learning about the illness that claimed their loved one. Ricci said she was shocked about the number of military suicides.
"The rate at which they're taking their own life by suicide has now surpassed the death toll of the war," said Ricci, "and that's staggering when you think about 22 every day. That's literally almost one an hour."
In tribute to her nephew, Ricci wants to raise awareness and help soldiers dealing with post traumatic stress disorder. Saturday, Oct. 26 at Chaifetz Arena, there will be 15 mixed martial arts fights to raise money to fund PTSD treatment. The event is called Warriors for Heroes: MMA vs. PTSD.
"How often can you feel good about going to something like that knowing that your money is actually going to save somebody's life?" said David Mirikitani, the event promoter.
Mirikitani said there will be 14 fights, five of them featuring professional mixed martial arts athletes. Some fighters are military veterans who want to help.
"One of our fighters did eight tours of combat," said Mirikitani. "He was going to be Adam's last opponent and he reached out to Linda specifically said 'I want to be on the card.'"
Muffler was a Cardinals baseball fan. Ironically, the event will take place while the Cardinals are playing in the World Series against the Boston Red Sox. Ricci is undeterred.
"Every ticket we sell goes to saving a life," said Ricci. "If you're not going to the World Series, please plan on supporting these guys by attending and buying a ticket."
After learning how many military personnel are struggling with PTSD, Ricci hopes to continue her event every year to raise money for treatment for veterans.
"You know they've all seen and lived through horrible things and that they're likely to be as affected by the trauma as any human being would be," she said.