DENVER (CBS4) – Several hundred people gathered at the POF Hall Saturday for The 20th Annual Veterans Memorial Day Tribute. For Joe Pansini, the annual tribute is a way to remember his son Sgt. Nicholas Pansini.

(credit: CBS)

“He had a great attitude, and he didn’t like people being wronged or mistreated,” said Pansini. “I think of him daily, he’s in my subconscious, he’s part of me and I will never forget my son. Sgt. Nicholas Pansini.”

Inspired by the events of 9/11, Nick enlisted in the Marines shortly after graduation from Littleton’s Heritage High School in 2005. He would serve two tours in Iraq before being honorably discharged in 2010.

(credit: Pansini family)

Six months later, while enrolled in classes as part of his journey to become a firefighter, Nick died by suicide.

“He didn’t talk to anybody, he wasn’t seeing counseling, there was no note, and there was no notice. It was just talk to him, everything was fine, he was working, and then he was gone.”

Joe Pansini (credit: CBS)

Joe and his family found support and healing in the organization Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors and seeks to counsel other vets struggling with mental health.

“Please reach out. Don’t contain those thoughts. Think of yourself, but also think of your family and the people that love you. It’s important to process and deal with your experiences overseas.”

(credit: CBS)

And this event is a way for those left behind to process their loss and honor their heroes.

“We all have our grief and we have our sadness and we have these wonderful people that take time to honor us, say our person’s name, say it out loud, I appreciate all of the families being remembered.”

Joel Hillan