Officials say U.S. veteran suicides are climbing at a startling rate, and Long Island hasn't gone untouched by the trend.
The Pentagon says that the U.S. military's suicide rate grew 15 percent since 2011. More American soldiers are losing their lives to suicide than to enemy forces.
Among those casualties is Commack native Daniel Stea, a 24-year-old army specialist who survived combat on the battlefields of Iraq only to die on the homefront.
Stea killed himself on Oct. 1, 2012. His mother, Mary Stea, says he pushed a couch against the door to his room and shot himself as his father tried to get in.
Mary Stea says her only son suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression after being haunted by the horrors of war. His girlfriend had also died suddenly not long before he killed himself.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 22 veterans kill themselves every day, or one every 65 minutes. It impacts those who have served in Vietnam and those who served recently, in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Most veterans' clinics, including one in Bay Shore, offer confidential screening, counseling and suicide risk evaluation. But experts say the stigma associated with mental illness prevents thousands of afflicted veterans from seeking treatment.
Mary Stea hopes her son's story will raise awareness about veteran suicides and help save lives. "If there's anything I can do to stop even just one soldier from committing suicide, I will do it," she says.