Mills Bigham was a 19-year-old Marine in Iraq when he made his first kill.
While on a foot patrol, someone hurled a grenade at Bigham's squad. Bigham, who was at the point, turned and fired.
"I pulled the trigger quickly, twice. Pop ... pop," the Columbia Marine wrote in his journal.
Two bullets hit the attacker's chest, knocking him to the ground. Within minutes, he was dead. The grenade was a dud.
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Bigham checked the attacker's identification.
He was 12.
Less than four years later on Oct. 19, Lance Cpl. Mills Palmer Bigham sat in his red Chevy Tahoe, put a .410-gauge shotgun to his forehead and pulled the trigger one last time.
He was 23.
Family said Bigham, a graduate of A.C. Flora High School, suffered from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
In hopes they can prevent another veteran's suicide, Bigham's family recently founded Hidden Wounds, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Columbia.
"My brother fell through the cracks," said Anna Bigham, the Marine's sister.
About one out of every five veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq have some form of PTSD and depression, according to a federal study.
Last month, the Department of Veterans Affairs said the suicide rate among veterans between 18 and 29 years old climbed 26 percent from 2005 to 2007.
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