A Fateful Saturday

(CBS/iStockPhoto)
The clock had struck 10 a.m. and the anticipation continued to mount — our guests would soon arrive not quite knowing who we were or how they'd feel. It was a crisp October morning and for some it would be their first time in New York … I'm sure they'd envisioned coming under happier circumstances, but they were all here for a reason.

CBS News invited five families from all walks of life, from all over the country, to share their story. Men and women, mothers and fathers, sisters and girlfriends with nothing in common except one very painful reality…each had a loved one who honorably served their country...each had a loved one who came home a very different person…and each had a loved one who couldn't bear the thought of going on any longer.

Every year thousands of desperate soldiers end their lives … often returning home from war unscathed on the outside, riddled with battle scars on the inside … scars often times unrecognizable to the naked eye, until it's too late.

The families all entered together, some more reluctant than others to open up. But as time passed, jackets came off and emotional barriers came down. In essence they were all one family united in their battle to keep memories and hope alive.

Armen entered, greeting each one individually, with a handshake, a hug and a kiss … knowing he'd soon open an emotional wound that would never heal … that none of us could ever understand. But we'd try.

Scanning the room, the first thing that struck me was when they all sat down. It was so eerily quiet you could hear a proverbial pin drop. Each person immediately grabbed the hand of those sitting next to them providing some semblance of reassurance that life does go on…that they'd get through it together … that their voices in unison would tell the world what's really happening to our men and women in uniform.

Until now, no one had tracked how many veterans of the war on terror had committed suicide — how many servicemen and women have come home haunted by the realities of war, abandoned by those sworn to protect them. There's no doubt after listening to the horrific tales … veteran suicide can only be described as an epidemic.

In the end all these families can do is channel their pain and frustration into action … action that helps the citizens and government of this country realize that so many of our beloved brethren are dying in vain — and hope that no one will ever again have to share their grief.

Before leaving, Diana Henderson, mother of Derek, looked me straight in the eye and with an impassioned sigh said the "only thing I'm thankful for, is my baby is no longer suffering…" To me, that is our nation's biggest failure.