EL PASO — A memorial race was held Sunday to honor and remember a fallen American hero who died, not from the physical wounds of war, but from the emotional wounds he suffered, according to his family.
After two deployments to Iraq, Tony Mena came back and doctors diagnosed him with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Tony Mena's mother spoke about her son at Sunday's event.
“They come home and now they struggle with an emotional battle with themselves," said Pat Mena, Tony's mother.
Executive Director of Citizens Commission on Human Rights, Tina Olson says treating PTSD with drugs is an epidemic in the U.S.
"War does affect people, it affects soldiers, but it doesn't have to be treated with psychotropic drugs,” said Olson.
Tony Mena's mother remembers her son's change in behavior.
"Happy, outgoing, carefree, full of life. He adored his parents. He loved serving in the air force and he was a generous person and he truly loved all his friends," said Mena.
But after serving his country, she says Tony Mena became a different person.
"He was angry. He hated the whole world, and that included hating god, and he didn't want anything to do with me or with his father,” said Mena.
He became severely depressed, had insomnia, he suffered from terrible nightmares and flashbacks of Iraq and so doctors treated him with prescription drugs.
"He had a backpack full of over 20 bottles of pills. I saw Anthony clinging to his backpack. My son had become addicted to these prescribed drugs," said Mena.
“In the case of Tony Mena, he was just over drugged and he died in his sleep," said Olson.
Tony Mena died at the age of 23. Now Tony's mother is left with only the memory of her son and the hope that she can help prevent this from happening to other soldiers.
"We need to be very patient with our loved ones, we need to let them know that life is still worth living," said Mena.
She has since written a book called "You'll Be Fine, Darling: Struggling with PTSD after the Trauma of War.”