A soldier’s suicide has motivated his family to raise awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder, culminating in a resource fair Saturday to make sure others get the help they need.
Howard and Jean Somers still grieve for their son Daniel, who took his own life roughly one year ago.
Daniel was a sergeant with the California Army National Guard who served during the Iraq War.
His time on the battlefield left him with PTSD and Gulf War Syndrome, and his transition back to civilian life proved too difficult.
“He was married. We knew it was difficult for Daniel and his wife to sleep in the same bed because if she touched him during the night, it caused him flashbacks,” said Howard.
The father told NBC 7 he and his family had to walk on eggshells around Daniel. They knew he was having issues, but they did not know how to approach him or what resources were available in the community to help.
“He couldn’t get up before 12 o clock, couldn’t function, had severe headaches,” Howard said. “There were just so many things that were going on with him that we just didn’t know how to deal with.”
Now, Howard and Jean have made it their mission to make sure other veterans and families do not suffer as Daniel and his family did.
The two created Operation Engage America and organized a PTSD Awareness Day in Kearny Mesa Saturday, which offered talks on the benefits of a service dog and coaching people into the care they need.
More than two dozen organizations also participated in a resource fair to ensure guests knew about the aid available to them.
Howard said the event would have helped them if it had been available before Daniel’s death.
“This is a huge deal,” he said. “One of the big issues is that the VA -- we know they've been having a lot of publicity -- but they are experts in treating things like PTSD and TBI. The problem is less than 30 percent of veterans are even seen at VA hospitals.”
The Somers hope to make this an annual event in at least one city in every state.