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Colorado dad advocates for veterans' mental health after son dies by suicide

Connor McDaniel, an Army Veteran, died by suicide suicide in El Paso County in September 2021.
Posted at 1:13 PM, May 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-05 17:29:36-04

David McDaniel has pictures of his children all over his living room walls. He even has a book dedicated to one of his sons, Connor, because photographs are the only way his dad can see him now.

Connor McDaniel, 26-years old and an Army Veteran, died on September 1, 2021. Connor died by suicide after provoking El Paso County Sheriff's deputies to shoot him.

According to the district attorney's office, which ruled the shooting as justified, Connor was armed and firing shots in a wooded area in Peyton with homes nearby.

Colorado dad advocates for veterans' mental health after son dies of suicide

However, before the hours-long negotiation process with deputies, Connor emailed each of his family members individually with a goodbye letter.

"He explained in there that he felt like his entire life would've been a series of bad experiences sprinkled with happiness, but it was so lopsided to him that it didn't seem worth continuing," said McDaniel.

Now, the father who lost his son is using the tragedy to advocate for veterans in need of mental health help.

“I really do strongly feel like if we can make the ‘D' disappear from PTSD, and it's not such a stigma, and ... everybody who's been in combat goes for some mental health, I think it will change things a lot."

Bob McLaughlin, the Chief Operating Officer for Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center, has heard stories like McDaniel's for years.

“Often our military members sometimes lose a sense of purpose. People say the NBA, the NFL, Major league baseball is the ultimate team sport… United States Military is the ultimate team sport.”

Mt. Carmel offers a variety of services to veterans, including for those transitioning back into the civilian workforce.

McDaniel has a goal of speaking with the Senate Armed Services Committee to work towards drafting legislation, which would require veterans returning from deployment to get mental health help.

"These people matter. They're not just another name."

For more veterans services in southern Colorado, visit the KOAA's You Are Not Alone page.

This story was originally reported by Denver7's news partners at KOAA News5.