COMMACK - A Suffolk mother whose son survived combat in Iraq only to die on the homefront is committed to helping other soldiers who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Two years ago, Mary Stea, of Commack, began the long, painful journey of learning how to live without her only child and best friend. Her son, Army Spc. Daniel Stea, died after losing his battle with the emotional wounds of war.
After returning home from war at age 25, his mother says he started to show classic signs of PTSD. One day, he pushed a couch against his bedroom door, and when his father tried to get into the room, he shot himself.
After losing her son, Mary Stea has sought to prevent other PTSD tragedies. "I felt like I just had to get out there and do whatever I can to never let this happen again, not to another soldier, another vet, another family," she said. "I just didn't want anybody else to go through what we went through."
Stea joined forces with a group called Meals of Honor. Its mission is to provide free, home-cooked meals to veterans in need. It brings comfort food like pot roast, potatoes, brownies and cookies to veterans who are undergoing treatment for PTSD at the Beacon House in Bay Shore.
By helping her son's comrades, Mary Stea has found the recipe for healing her broken heart. "All I know is I am at my happiest when I'm cooking for them because I feel like I'm cooking for Daniel," she says.