Wendell Guillermo—a decorated combat veteran, 2010 NVF Veteran of the Year, and one of our most experienced LifeLine for Vets counselors—just started graduate school at USC. From 2007 until a few days before classes at USC began in September, Wendell helped fellow vets on our veteran crisis, information and services hotline.
Injured in 2004 during his first combat mission, Wendell served two tours in Iraq as an Airborne infantryman. His transition back to civilian life wasn’t easy. He had his share of post-traumatic stress, sleeplessness, hypervigilance and was quick to anger. “The VA prescribed a concoction of meds,” he says. “I wanted to find an alternative way to heal. I met several NVF team members through my job at a gym. They invited me to the NVF to meet Shad. That changed everything.”
“Part of the healing process was being around vets, building rapport, hearing what they went through and how they coped with it.”
Eventually, Wendell came on board as a trained NVF counselor. Helping other vets, hearing their stories, was therapeutic for him as well as the vets he counseled. “Also, here at the NVF I was introduced to alternative ways of dealing with the stress I carried from combat.” Among them were Warrior Breathing, exercise and Thought Field Therapy (NVF President Shad Meshad is a certified trainer). “I was open to trying a lot of different things, and utilized what worked for me.”
“Shad encouraged me to enroll in college to continue my education. When I did, the whole team supported me. When one of the guys I’d served with, Freddy Cordova, got out of the military, I got him on staff here as fast as I could. Freddy was a great counselor. He also went to school and then pursued another career.”
“Veterans issues are an integral part of me now. At UCLA I helped student vets navigate the VA and the California Department of Veterans Affairs. After USC, I will definitely continue to give back in some way. I’m thinking of financial education for vets. Financial problems were one of the biggest issues I heard about on the LifeLine for Vets. Many vets have little understanding of the importance of saving, or how living from paycheck to paycheck can be detrimental to well-being.”
Wendell Guillermo leads by example. His knowledge, experience and compassion for his fellow vets will be missed here at the NVF. The key to it all, he says, was a combination of meaningful work, a sense of commitment and purpose, and support from family and the vets around him.
“The NVF is vet-to-vet. And that works.”
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