PHOENIX (KSAZ) - An Iraq war veteran who made it his life's mission to help other troops returning from war has died. Brian Mancini co-founded Honor House, a place where wounded veterans could go for therapy and counseling. But sadly, the man who helped so many others heal couldn't find peace himself.
A retired Sgt. First Class, Mancini was just 38 years old and he left the Honor House organization he founded a year ago.
Mancini, who had two Purple Hearts, worked tirelessly to save veterans who were hurting. On Tuesday, the community came to salute, honor and thank him. With the Patriot Guard standing by, hundreds crowded into the Christ Church of the Valley to say goodbye to the Army veteran. Many here call him hero.
"It's been pretty incredible to see so many people come from all over the world and honor my brother," said Nikki Mancini.
His family is devastated, but also his fellow veterans. He may not have served with them, but they say he saved their lives once they came home mentally and emotionally wounded.
"Brian literally met with me five to seven times a week, gave me a healing, counseled me, he pulled me away from the abyss so many times," said Budd Gilbert, a veteran.
Mancini struggled with his own demons. He was seriously wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2007, causing a traumatic brain injury and the loss of his eye. As he fought to get better, he realized the system was broken and founded the Honor House in Phoenix, hoping to reach out and help veterans who were struggling with PTSD and other invisible wounds.
Earlier this month, the man who helped so many took his own life. While shocked, veterans say his death has galvanized them to continue the fight SFC Mancini was so dedicated to.
"We can't take PTSD and TBIS for granted. It's a process we have to continue and be on top of. You turn your back for a second, that beast will come up and grab you and Brian has showed us that even in his passing, he's showed he can't give up," said Gilbert.
"We just didn't lose Brian to demons of PTSD alone, but that it is a true battle for many veterans and it's time for us as Americans to wake up. We lost a huge advocate," said Brian's brother, Michael Mancini.
Honor House's Operation Healing Journey