The family of a local firefighter who took his own life after struggling with PTSD for nearly a year wants to save other families from suffering the same fate.
"I just can't let him go quietly because we lost an angel,” Chad Vakili’s sister, Laleh Hanks said.
Vakili, 32, was a firefighter for the US Air Force in San Diego and served one tour in the Middle East.
He was diagnosed with PTSD a few years after his tour.
Vakili was getting therapy and was on medication, but both had been postponed a couple weeks ago during a recent move away from San Diego. Vakili died on May 1.
“Could I have called him one more time? Should I have brought it up? And there are a lot of people struggling with this, and we just want them to know that it's not a weakness. It's something we can get through together,” Hanks said.
She said she wants her brother to have the memorial he deserves. Vakili’s family is asking that anyone who is available to please come to the service at The Church At Rancho Bernardo, the funeral procession, or the salute to service on the freeway overpasses on the way to Miramar National Cemetery where Vakili will be buried.
Everyone is welcome to attend the memorial at the cemetery.
"We just want to give him the service that he deserves, and we just ask for support from our neighbors and, you know, citizens. We have to pull together and help our heroes."
She also said she is determined to do more to spread the word about PTSD.
"These men and women have gone to war and obviously seen things that we can't possibly relate to, and they stood in front of us and it's our time to stand behind them,” she said.
Hanks said she plans to collect signatures to change how veterans get treatment.
"I do believe that we should demand that therapy as part of their benefit once a week and not just leave it up to the veteran. There needs to be an effort to save these heroes,” she said. "I just really think we need to treat this almost like alcoholism. We need to teach coping skills… I'm very frustrated that the solution now seems to be medicine.”
She said she keeps asking herself “what more could we have done?” and has decided to start a website what that title.
"I know Chad was our angel, but I know that there's another veteran right now that probably took their life and they were somebody's angel."
The details of the Thursday afternoon service can be found here.