A Suffield mother who lost her veteran son to suicide after he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder is working to prevent the same tragedy from happening to someone else.
Suicide prevention for veterans is on President Trump’s radar. He signed an executive order yesterday establishing a new task force with the mission of ending the suicide epidemic in the military.
It is an issue that hits home for Donna Chapman, who lost her son Will, and is now searching for ways to heal her family and others.
“I lost my son from emotional wounds, those you cannot visually see- it tears me up,” Donna said.
Her son, Sgt. William Davidson, took his own life on January 2, 2017. He was just 24.
"He had the biggest heart of anyone I knew," Donna told NBC Connecticut.
Will wanted to go in to police work. When he graduated from Suffield High School, his mother encouraged him to join the National Guard, thinking it would be the safest way for him to serve. But during a 10-month tour of Afghanistan that began in 2012, Will saw active combat.
"He returned home without physical injury...but the injuries that he suffered were emotional which ultimately took his life,” Donna explained.
She said that Will told her he was diagnosed with PTSD.
"He needed to be away with people who suffered in similar ways so he wouldn't feel so isolated and alone,” she said.
Sadly, Will Chapman’s story is not unique. According to a VA report, 20 veterans and active military personnel succumb to suicide every day.
Donna says she didn’t sense how bad Will’s struggles were at the time, and now she tortures herself about it.
To help veterans and first responders fight those feelings of loneliness, Donna started a non-profit called Will Power. In a little over a year, she says she’s raised more than $50,000 that she hopes someday can help fund a retreat center.
“I just think we owe America’s heroes our very best,” Donna said.
Donna also wants to end the stigma of emotional health and change policy and procedures so veterans like her son get the help they so desperately need.
“You gotta lean on your family because your family would do anything for you,” Donna said.
She said she can’t let her son just be a statistic.
“My son's life and death is not going to be for nothing"
Donna’s ultimate goal for Willpower is to someday raise enough money to build that free retreat center for small groups to come together and heal.