AUSTIN, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 6,000 vets die by suicide each year, accounting for 18 percent of suicide deaths in America.
On Saturday a fundraiser was held in Cedar Park to help raise money for those healing from the unseen wounds of war.
"I lost seven friends in Iraq during combat operations,” said Marselis Nelson. "When I returned home, I've lost 13 friends who have killed themselves by suicide since then."
When Nelson got out of the Army in 2014, he was considering taking his own life.
“I attempted twice to kill myself,” said Nelson. "By the grace of God those attempts were foiled."
He was suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder or (PTSD) after returning from a yearlong tour in Iraq.
“Just realizing that the new person and know the person that went to war isn't the person that comes home," said Nelson.
Nelson says the pain and trauma of being in war drove him to drugs and alcohol and nearly cost him his marriage.
“Because I was in such a dark place I was getting arrested multiple times while I was in the military,” said Nelson.
It would be years until Nelson would get the help he needed.
“I was just a regular civilian, a regular veteran who was trying with no resources and now that I have the resources it helped a lot,” said Nelson.
With a new beginning and a chance at life, today Nelson is giving back the best way he knows, working for the nonprofit PTSD Foundation of America. Their goal is to lend support to troubled veterans across Central Texas.
“Now I’m in a place where I’m helping combat vets get from the darkness to the light,” said Nelson.
According to the VA, as many as 20 veterans take their own lives each day and the problem is only getting worse.
“When you come home often times they come from combat that don't translate to civilian lifestyle. So they struggle with anger they struggle with anxiety,” said Nelson.
Experts say the causes of suicide among military personnel vary from exposure to violence and war to spending lengthy times away from home and family. When combined with injury and adjusting to civilian life, thoughts of suicide are on the rise. Nelson says while in combat he lost not only good soldiers he lost brothers and sisters.
He says when our heroes come back from battle, many of them say they have to face their own demons.
“Hope for these combat veterans is knowing that there is someone like myself who has been there who has been to Iraq who’s watched their friends get killed. Who is on the other side the side they’re trying to get to,” said Nelson.
But thanks to resources and organizations like the one Nelson belongs to, he says our veterans won't be facing those demons alone.
“Give me your hand and let me you get there,” said Nelson.
If you or someone you know is struggling -- call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or call the Veterans Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or reach out to PTSD Foundation of America.