Canandaigua, New York (CNN) -- Suicide continues to plague the American military, with an estimated 18 war veterans in the United States ending their lives each day. One of the last resorts for veterans struggling with the return to civilian life is a suicide-prevention hot line based in upstate New York.
The humble offices of the Veterans Crisis Line in Canandaigua, New York, are like any other office space: desks, computers, telephones. But as you walk past each cubicle, you begin to hear extraordinarily disturbing conversations.
"I have a .45 pointed at my head," one caller says.
"What sort of weapons do you have?" another calmly responds.
The responders are part investigator, part therapist and part best friend.
"We never ever give up on a rescue. Whenever a vet needs help, we will do whatever it takes to find him if he can't tell us where he is. Whatever it takes to get them help," said Rob Griffo, a health tech at the Veterans Crisis Line.
In addition to calling the hot line at 1-800-273-8255, veterans who are thinking about taking their own lives can chat with a responder at www.veteranscrisisline.net. Veterans can also reach out for help by sending a text to 838255.
And it's not just about the veterans. Active-duty soldiers also call in.
Families and friends can call in to the hot line as well. Kemp says she encourages those who know a veteran who may be struggling with depression to reach out to the crisis line. She says some of the warning signs that someone is contemplating suicide include "talking about death more often, starting to give away their possessions, saying things (like 'I) probably won't be around by Christmas. I won't need to know that next year.' "
During a recent visit to the Veterans Crisis Line office, one veteran told responder Valerie Beaman that he planned to kill himself with a large knife to end what he called pain issues.
Beaman spent 45 minutes on the phone with the caller, trying to figure out exactly where the man was and then getting help to his front door. At one point, the veteran was so confused that he didn't know his address, presumably because of all the pills he had taken.
"I could hear the struggle, but I don't think they knew I was there. They did say he's safe, and the officers were safe," Beaman said.
The responders are flying blind most of the time. They ultimately have no idea what is happening on the other end of the phone. The anxiety is excruciating.
A short time later, a Korean War veteran called the hot line, saying he was ready to end his life.
The veteran told McHenry his wife died this year.
"He had been married for 20 years. ... He called simply to give me a message to give to his family about funeral arrangements and that he wanted to be buried with a photograph of her," McHenry said.
In less than 15 minutes, police arrived to help. At least one life was saved that night.